In what could already be described as a ‘four-pointer’ (in terms of a play-off berth) between Manchester Storm and Glasgow Clan, the visitors ultimately prevailed. A road win which was largely thanks to a dominant opening stanza, which saw the Clan outshoot the hosts 17:7 and open-up a deserved two-goal advantage. Although, it must be noted the affectionately named Goonchester Storm recorded zero penalty minutes, for the first time this season.
Manchester Storm vs Glasgow Clan (26/12/18)
The home team would be without star forward Luke Moffat, who was serving the second part of his two-game suspension. As a result of this, Manchester could only dress 13 imports so young defencemen Riley Stadel was given the night-off. After facing 79 shots in two games, against the Belfast Giants, Matt Ginn would be given no time off as he started between the pipes for Manchester.
(Line-up addition thanks to Ollie Hampson of CTP)
Pete Russell had a full line-up at his disposal for this encounter, with former Storm players: Matt Beca, Scott Pitt, Gerard Hanson and Matt Stanisz all making their returns to the Shelter. The infamous duo of Beca and Pitt have recently rekindled their scoring touch and this upturn in production has coincided with a good-run of form for the visitors. Joel Rumpel was given the start, in goal, despite increased pressure from Scotsman Gary Russell in recent weeks.
It took until just before the halfway mark, in the first period, for the deadlock to be broken. As the attempt to skate the puck out of the zone from Dallas Ehrhardt proved a costly error, when the impressive Vaclav Stupka was able to seize control of the puck and skate to the goaline uncontested. This freedom, deep in the zone, left the Storm skaters unable to prevent his cross-ice pass from landing on the stick of a gleeful Scott Pitt, who fired easily into virtually an empty net. The visitors lead would soon be doubled following a deadly counter-attack, two-quick-fire shots from Guillaume Doucet and Craig Peacock were smartly stopped by Ginn before Brendan Connolly ghosted into the zone and backhand the rebound over the line. No further chances were created in an opening period that very much belonged to the Clan, as a sizeable home crowd were made to wait a little longer for a first goal.
The second period saw a complete reverse to the first period, as the Storm outworked and out chanced their opponents for the majority of the frame. After some excellent puck retention from Evan Richardson and Felix-Antoine Poulin, on the powerplay, to maintain the zone and left Richardson free in the slot. However, the playmaking forward opted to pass the puck [rather than shoot], and this proved an excellent decision, with everybody’s favourite Chris Auger halving the deficit. The Clan would restore their two-goal cushion 79 seconds later, as the deadly Stupka-Beca-Pitt line combined again. The forechecking pressure caused blueliner Declan Balmer to turnover the puck and handed possession to Scott Pitt. Pitt’s classy behind-the-back pass found Beca, who wheeled behind the goal before setting-up Stupka on the doorstep to make it 3-1. Top British scoring forward Ciaran Long would score his 9th of the season, just over one minute later, when a tame looking wristshot somehow snuck between Rumpel’s pads and brought the hosts within one, again. The score would remain 3-2, in favour of the Clan, when the second intermission buzzer sounded, but the growing pressure infront of Rumpel’s goal had the home supporters feeling optimistic at this point.
Another sloppy turnover and another superbly executed counter-attack from the Clan would see Connolly backhand the puck passed Ginn, for a second time in the game. After Shane Bakker failed to dump the puck, Doucet was able to flip the puck-out to linemate Peacock on the boards. This two-zone pass left the majority of the Storm skaters out of position and Connolly was able to capitalise from close range, following an excellent pass from Peacock. The two-goal Clan lead evaporated, almost immediately, as this time it would be the turn of a former Clan player, to score on his old team, in the shape Felix-Antoine Poulin. The offensive blueliner now has 5 points (2G 3A) in his last 5 games, as his low wristshot evaded everyone and put Storm within touching distance. Although, an impressive defensive display from the Clan closed out the game with relative ease, as they were able to shutdown the onrushing Storm skaters consistently and keep the shots to the peripheries. Despite pulling the goaltender, for the extra skater, Storm were unable to fashion any ‘Grade A’ scoring chances that would be required and the result was confirmed when Scott Pitt threw the puck into a vacant goal with just 27 seconds remaining. A huge win for the Clan and massive defeat for the Storm, but the mini-series will continue in less than 24 hours time, in what appears to be a must-win for the Storm.
This sort of performance wasn’t a shock, despite a hugely impressive road win against Belfast on Friday, Manchester followed this up with one of their worst performances of the season, which gifted Beskorowany a shutout (he only faced 19 shots). This poor form continued into the Shelter and not many home supporters will grumble with the final result. Now a good number of players have come and gone in Manchester this season, and a few might count themselves lucky of a university placement to still be in town at this point. A few of these candidates will be mentioned below and the others are just out of form at the moment.
Rob Linsmayer (F): an impressive start to the campaign saw him score 5 times in his first 7 league games, Linsmayer’s form has dropped off a cliff. Just 1 goal in his last 21 league games has left Finnerty perplexed and his position in the Top 6 surely must be under the microscope.
Chris Auger (F): the enigma, the lazy, the frustrating, just a few titles that Auger might well consider for an autobiography. His powerplay goal broke a 10 game scoreless streak, in recent weeks MacMillan has taken his job on the bottom line and PK. However, the suspension to Moffat afforded him a few more chances before the turn of the year.
Riley Stadel (D): the offensive defenceman has now gone 18 games without a goal, which backdates to his hugely impressive hat-trick performance against Dundee Stars (20/10). Stadel has been given ample powerplay opportunities from Ryan Finnerty and having been left out of the line-up last night Stadel will realise he has to start producing again.
Matt Ginn (G): the import netminder was a standout performer at the start of the season, sporting a SV% north of .910 through the opening few months. However, in his last 5 starts Ginn hasn’t been stopping the puck with such regularity, excluding a hugely impressive performance against Belfast on 21/12. Ginn’s SV% in the last 5 matches is .897 and is mostly due to poor execution infront of him. Yet, if Manchester are going to make the play-offs they need more top-draw performances from this man.
MOM’s: Felix-Antoine Poulin (Storm) & Brendan Connolly (Clan)
SOG’s: 31 Storm & 32 Clan
Feature image: Manchester Storm Official Facebook page