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Coventry Blaze 2
Basingstoke Bison 3

Jeers of vitriol, anger and disbelief echoed around the Skydome Arena after two outrageous refereeing decisions sank Coventry Blaze's chances of winning the title.

Coach Paul Thompson and a player from each side were thrown out of the game as Basingstoke Bison were given an ill-deserved and unjustifiable winner with just 30 seconds left on the clock.

As the Bison piled on the pressure on the Blaze goal with overtime looming, net minder Henrik Sjodin caught the puck. He and all the other Blaze players came to a halt having apparently heard a whistle, and Sjodin dropped the puck to the ice.

But the Bison payers kept on playing and Rich Little scored the winning goal.

Furious protests led to a lengthy delay, but referee Cloutman insisted that the goal should stand, making the score 2-3.

It was sickening for the Blaze, who needed a victory to keep in touch with the title after yet another loss on Saturday at Guildford Flames.

What made it more galling was that the Blaze had a superb goal disallowed in the second period after the Bison players also claimed they had heard a whistle.

Mike Shewan's quick break had left most of the Bison players stranded at the other end of the rink, and his inch perfect cross to Tom Watkins had the crowd on its feet, the 2,301 people believing they had seen the Blaze take a 2-1 lead.

Jeers started when referee Cloutman ruled the goal out. A minute later the same "whistle" was heard again - it turned out to be a small girl screaming near the Bison goal.

AJ Kelham put the Blaze in front in the third period, only for Bison to equalise in the dying seconds of a power play through Ellis.

But the decision to let the Bison's third goal stand prompted mayhem on the ice.

Coach Paul Thompson was sent off after he hurled a water bottle onto the rink, and with six seconds remaining new signing Stephen Cooper started a major fracas behind the Bison net. He got the better of his dust up with O'Connell, but was sent to the penalty box.

Mike Tasker followed, and then seemed to be ejected from the game as arguments raged for several minutes more.

With boos and choruses of "cheat" raining onto the ice, the usual after-match pleasantries did not take place, and the Bison left the arena looking slightly sheepish.

Niggling referring at nearly every face-off had spoiled the game throughout, and added tension to a tight game.

A shot by Shaun Johnson had given the Blaze the lead while short-handed on a power when the puck fizzled under the visitor's theatrical net-minder. The lead was short-lived as Clark pulled one back, but the one-all scoreline at the end of the first period gave no sense of the drama that would follow.

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

Penalty minutes : 55-44

Shots on goal : 27-16

Attendance : 2301

Referee : Dave Cloutman

Blaze : Johnson 1+0; Kelham 1+0; Dumas 0+1; Pease 0+1.  Net - Sjodin 16/3

Bison : Clark 1+0; Ellis 1+0; Little 1+0; Andersson 0+1; Mason 0+1; Meyers 0+1; O’Connell 0+1.  Foster 27/2

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CWN / Sport / Ice Hockey / Coventry Blaze / 28 Jan 01
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