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Coventry Blaze 5
Guildford Flames 6

The miracle failed to happen - Coventry Blaze are out of the ntl: Cup after losing to Guildford Flames in an action-packed semi-final second leg.

The script went wrong in the first few seconds. Needing an early goal to try and recover a three-goal deficit, the Blaze found themselves picking the puck out of the net after Karry Biette slotted home in front of a crowded goal.

Whatever motivational fire had been poured into the Blaze to fuel their belief evaporated.

As befits their home form, they took control of the early possession after the setback, but couldn't make anything concrete count.

Shots from Dumas and Shewan went close without really threatening, and urgency was only injected into the game once Hilton Ruggles went on one of his mazy runs.

Energy returned, Soderstrom and Samuelsson both went close from the right hand side, but Guildford were proving excellent at getting in the way at stopping shots being made.

Not afraid of the physical challenge, they were quick on the break and managed to exploit the Blaze's hole between defence and attack.

Whether one man can make a difference on a whole game is debatable, but Steve Chartrandís ability to cover defence and attack was missed.

Blaze's other weakness soon became apparent. Against tight marshalling near the goal, they couldn't make the power plays count until the game was beyond their reach.

Claude Dumas showed once again how good an attacker he is given a run at goal, but instead of slotting home in the first period he forced a fantastic save out of Mark McArthur in the Guildford net.

Tension continued into the second period. The crowd, smaller but noisier than usual, with both sides of the arena getting involved was finally given a reason to believe when AJ Kelham levelled the scores after 29.25.

With just three goals needed, the Blaze started to look as if they could do it, and started to run Guildford ragged. Verve was added, the flowing moves returned and Kelham bagged another.

Then it went wrong. Irvine was controversially sent to the box and the Flames brought the score back to 2-2.

Biette did the damage then, and again minutes later when a snappy break saw Guildford take the lead on the night.

The only solace for the Coventry supporters was seeing the cheerleaders trying to find a way to dance to the Great Escape.

At the beginning of third period, a moment to savour, even with defeat looming, as Dumas broke clear, nudged his way around several players and scored a brilliant unassisted goal. He went close again shortly after, and had he scored there might have been a glimmer of hope in the game.

Campbell showed that the Flames were equal to the task when he beat Sjodin, and by 49.16 the away fans' Suits You Sir banner was jigging around once more and Lamey scored to make it 3-5.

Dumas came close again, Ruggles was sent to the box for tripping, having retaliated after being niggled one time too many, but despite being short-handed the Blaze showed they had pride when Kelham scored on the break for his hat trick.

Dignity is hard to come by when trophies are at stake and Biette rounded off a fine flowing move by Guildford to score yet again. With seconds remaining Tom Watkins grabbed another goal to make the final total 5-6.

The entertainment was good, but the Blaze need to learn to win when it counts if they are going to end up with some silverware this season.

Period scores : 0-1/2-2/3-3

Penalty minutes : 8-10 (Blaze: Irvine 4, Dumas 2, Ruggles 2)

Shots on goal : 42-28

Attendance : 1134

Referee : Andy Carson

Blaze : Kelham 3+0; Dumas 1+0; Watkins 1+0; Johnson 0+3; Samuelsson 0+3; Twaite 0+1.  Net - Sjodin 28/6

Flames : Biette 4+0; R.Campbell 1+1; Lamey 1+1; DeCosty 0+3; Dixon 0+2; Crawford 0+1; Crombie 0+1; Jennings 0+1; Plant 0+1.  Net - McArthur 42/5
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CWN / Sport / Ice Hockey / Coventry Blaze / 18 Jan 01
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