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Milton Keynes Kings 2
Coventry Blaze 4

It’s over. Despite a strong fight back by the Coventry Blaze, the result in the other result went against them, and their play-off hopes and season has ended.

Dr Jekyll and My Hyde were icing for the Coventry in Milton Keynes tonight as the team showed flashes of brilliance punctuated by grotesque lapses.

The large, and hoarse travelling contingent had one ear glued to an array of mobile phones: if Guildford were to abandon their winning run, Peterborough would go through regardless of the result against the Kings.

The fans left the arena believing that Guildford had the match safe. But the Pirates fought back to win after overtime for the third game in a row, and their penalties win puts Coventry out of the play-offs.

Coventry knew they had to beat bottom-placed Milton Keynes to stand a chance, and it wasn’t all plain sailing, despite the assault on goal from the off.

Ruggles, Kelham and Watkins all went near without looking really convincing before the Kings opened the scoring in the 7th minute.

It was a goal typical for the Blaze to concede. A solid attack by the Blaze led to a quick Kings breakaway, and Clarke found himself in oceans of space.

He hit a hard and high shot, which sailed into the top right corner of the net, but Barry Hollyhead in goal should have made a better fist of stopping it.

The game became tense: despite Coventry’s superiority they couldn’t get a telling shot in and Lindsay, playing his last game, made save after save in the Milton Keynes goal.

For their part, the Kings seemed happy to drift anything in near Hollyhead in case something unexpected happened. Some shots were rebounding so far off him that the Blaze defence were stranded in a no-man’s land, unable to protect their keeper.

Mistakes by the top players didn’t help. Even Cooper made a daft error to let the Kings through, and Kelham and Ruggles both played as if they butter on their sticks one minute, before flying off on a dazzling run.

The sprit was there, Ruggles even making some tackles and Shewan blasting in shot after shot on the beleagured Lindsay. But it took a long time for an equaliser to come, when Johnson snatched a rebound following shots from Dumas and Tasker.

Hollyhead started to impress to keep the Blaze in the game. He and Cooper managed to block a three-pronged Kings attack and the away fans started chanting his name.

Then, it was the Kings fans’ turn to laud Hollyhead, as a simple shot slithered past him. Whoever scored it did well enough, but won’t be credited until Milton Keynes do something about the dreadful state of their public address system – getting accurate information about the goals or penalties requires sonar ears if you are in the away fans’ section.

Hearts were sinking, but the Blaze carried on, and in the 47th minute struck twice to decimate the opposition.

Cometh the hour, cometh Dumas, and one of his mazy runs around his former team-mates saw a class goal bring the scores level.

Eleven seconds later a cross from Cooper from the right swung across the face of goal to be met by Kelham at the far post

The Kings’ faithful weren’t impressed by the way their team had surrendered the lead, and started chanting “what a waste of money”.

With 90 seconds remaining, the Kings pulled their netminder and with six out-players managed to put intense pressure on the Blaze.

Eventually they lost the puck and Dumas got to the halfway line before unleashing a shot-come-clearance that trickled into the goal, and made the result comfortable.

Tomorrow’s game won’t mean anything, but it will be the last home match of the season. Unshackled from the tension of the play-offs, expect the team to make a final point to their growing legion of fans.

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

Penalty minutes: 8-6

Shots on goal: 28-44

Attendance: 1393

Referee: Gary Plaistow

Kings: Clarke & Hazlehurst 1+0; Howard & Poole 0+1.  Net - Lindsay (58:40) 44/3; empty net (1:20) 1/1

Blaze: Dumas 2+1; Johnson & Kelham 1+0; Chartrand, Cooper, Hollyhead & Tasker 0+1.  Net - Hollyhead 28/2


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CWN / Sport / Ice Hockey / Coventry Blaze / 17 Mar 01
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