By Ed Kimberley
The Coventry Blaze went crashing out of the Challenge Cup race on Wednesday following a 5-2 loss to the Hull Stingrays. It was a reverse of the score line that saw them down Hull in the league competition. Ryan Ginand scored twice in both games but it was Ashley Tait who was the star of Sundays meeting with a 5 point night.
Sundays game was also the last for Blaze Defenceman Sean Erickson who announced he would be leaving the club shortly after the game. In fairness to Erickson, who never looked totally settled in Coventry, he stuck with the team through their injury crisis which ravaged their defence. It was a shame that Erickson has left the club as his 3 point night and generally solid defensive play was indicative of what the American had done while playing in Tulsa of the CHL. However, likely because he was never entirely settled witht the Blaze, he didn’t live up to many fans expectations. Although the Blaze are searching for a replacement it has been stated on a BBC CWR interview that there wasn’t much out their suitable. This seemed an interesting comment as at the same time the Nottingham Panthers secured the signing of Finnish Defenceman Tuukka Makela. Erickson is heading back to the Central league with the Rapid City Rush.
Wednesdays game was won by the Stingrays largely thanks to their special teams. They went 3 for7 on the powerplay and they also tallied shorthanded through Jereme Tendler. Their performance on the penalty kill was terrific. They killed 6/7 powerplays and the Blaze lack of secondary scoring cost them; both goals came from Ryan Ginand, his 20th+21ST goals of the season.
The Blaze 1st line of Ginand, A. Henrich and Tait have combined for 90 points this year however secondary scoring, and production offensively from the Blueline has been sparse. There are rumours of further changes in the Blaze camp, many speculating that Erickson will not be the only player to leave in the coming weeks. Erickson’s replacement, in my mind needs to be a player in the mould of Mike Schutte, who iced for the Blaze last year (and went 12+46 in 57GP), an offensive defenceman who can make and finish plays. This would hopefully kick-start some secondary scoring for the Blaze.