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Blaze book playoff place

The Genting Casino Coventry Blaze booked a place in the Elite Playoffs with a 4-3 final day victory over Guildford Flames at Skydome Arena.

Ahead of the fixture, four teams were vying for the final two positions, and it was the Blaze and Dundee Stars who took them.

Following a Five-Star performance in Cardiff the night before, Blaze coach Danny Stewart stuck with the same line-up, meaning J.D. Dudek and Carter Allen sat out.

With their playoff place already secure, the Flames came into the game with no pressure, and they took a lead at 6.06 when Nicolas Ouellet beat Taran Kozun on a rebound opportunity.

In front of a busy Skydome crowd, the Blaze responded in perfect style when Jack Hopkins scored his second goal of the regular season on an odd man rush at eight minutes.

Former Flame Ian McNulty then gave Coventry a 2-1 lead at 9.15 with his team leading 50th point and 19th goal of the season.

Dangerous blue-liner Ben O’Connor tied the game again at 16.32, firing home for the visitor’s seconds after a powerplay opportunity had ended.

Catching the Flames on a bad line change, Blaze re-took the lead 1.10 into the second period when Alessio Luciani snuck in behind and converted his 20th of the campaign one-on-one with Taz Burman.  

Player of the Month for March Aidan Spellacy doubled Coventry’s lead, taking advantage of a Guildford turnover for 4-2 on 33.33.

With 9 seconds remaining in the second period, a dump in from the Flames bounced right out in front of Kozun’s net but he was equal to the shooter, pulling off a remarkable glove save to keep hold of the two-goal lead after 40 minutes.

Lewis Hook’s effort at 53.28 made the final minutes a nervy affair for Blaze, but as they had done all weekend, led by netminder Kozun, the home side dug deep to secure the crucial points and a place in the Elite League playoffs.

With a four-point weekend, Blaze finished sixth in the league and will face the Belfast Giants in the Quarter-Finals of the playoffs.

The First-leg will take place on Saturday 13th April in Belfast (7pm) with the Second-leg at Sunday 14th April at Skydome Arena (5.30pm).

Photo credit: Scott Wiggins

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