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Injuries Blow Doesn't Dent Blaze Hopes

A fired-up Coventry Blaze are preparing to overcome injury problems to take on the champions Guildford in their own back yard tomorrow.

Mats Samuelsson has been ruled out of the entire play-off tournament because of a broken hand, and the club have been further rocked by the news that Marc Twaite may have suffered a cruciate ligament injury.

It means that the two youngest players in the squad, Rob Eley and Shaun Yardley will be called into action at the toughest time of the season.

Yesterday they were both told by coach Paul Thompson that he is looking to them to rise to the challenge facing them.

He said:

“I had a meeting with them yesterday and told them that they would both be taking part. Both players have improved dramatically this year and this is their chance to show me what they can do.

“Twaite has suffered a bit of stiffness and we think it might be a cruciate problem. We’re getting a second opinion on that before we can say how serious it is.

“It seems that when we get to a crucial period we lose a couple of players through injury.”

But despite the set-back, Thompson is confident of over-turning all the sides in the group, even though none of them will provide an easy victory.

The first game is away to BNL champions Guildford Flames, who have been on a huge run of good form.

He said:

“There’s no reason why we should be intimidated. They’ve done at the end of the season what we did at the beginning. We lost the league when we lost three home matches in ten days when Steve Chartrand got injured.

“Chartrand is back to 90 per cent fitness now. He can add so much to a team. He controls the game, he’s very strong on the puck, but he brings so much more to the team than just his skills.”

With the talismanic captain back to marshall events on the ice, the other area where Thompson is looking for a match-winning performance is between the pipes, and Barry Hollyhead had been picked to start in goal for the Blaze.

Thompson said:

“Barry had an excellent last third of last season and we made it to the semi-finals, and I’m looking to him to repeat that.

“We have to refocus for the play-offs. In North America the league doesn’t count for much and the play-offs are much more important.

“We’ve been working on tactics. We know the strengths and weaknesses of the other teams we’ll be playing, and they know ours.

“But it’s a new league now and there’s no reason why we can’t win.”

The first team to visit the Skydome in the play-offs will be Peterborough, on Sunday, who play an aggressive game and were involved in several fights in their last trip to Coventry.

Tickets for the clash are still available, but it is expected to be a sell-out, and the atmosphere plays a vital role in firing up the players.

Thompson said:

“Our fans have been absolutely fantastic. We’ve had excellent away support and now it’s getting louder in the Skydome.

“We want to biggest crowd ever. The noise is worth a goal to us when the players skate out onto the ice and hear all that cheering.”

The players have added to the sense of occasion by growing beards for the play-offs – a tradition that comes from North America when so many games were played the team didn’t have time to shave.

Thompson added:

“Hockey players tend to have a bit of growth on their faces to stop the sweat stinging, and it’s become a tradition to grow a beard for the play-off.

“However, I’m not sure that all of our players are capable of growing a beard!”


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CWN / Sport / Ice Hockey / Coventry Blaze / 2 Mar 01
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