Blaze eliminated from cup in Semi-Finals

The Genting Casino Coventry Blaze were eliminated from the Challenge Cup at the Semi-Final stage with a 4-1 second-leg defeat (10-1 on aggregate) to the Sheffield Steelers.

Blaze travelled to Sheffield with a depleted line-up missing forwards Mitch Cook, Kim Tallberg and Jack Hopkins while James Shearer was absent from the defence, all through injury.

Brit Nathan Ripley returned to the line-up and Mack Stewart again guested from the NIHL’s Milton Keynes Lightning.

Nolan Kent got the start in net for Coventry with Anthony Morrone his opposite number for Sheffield.

Both goalies were tested in the early going but it was Kent who was beaten first at 12.16 by Brit defenceman Sam Jones who converted Niklas Nevalainen’s pass well at the back door.

The tie was completely put to bed at 17.57 when American blue-liner Brien Diffley made it 2-0 on the night and extended the Steelers’ lead to 8-0 on aggregate.

Just before the half-way mark, Mikko Juusola robbed the puck off a Blaze defenceman before finding Captain Rob Dowd who fired past Kent for 3-0.

Former Steeler Danny Kristo finally got Coventry on the board, finishing well on a two-on-one opportunity at 34.39.

Before the second period was complete, the dominant Steelers were able to find a fourth on the night and 10th on aggregate with Mitchell Balmas registering from a tight angle at 39.02.

There was little incident in the third period and Sheffield were able to celebrate their first Final appearance since winning the competition in 2019/20.

The Challenge Cup Final will take place at Sheffield Arena on Wednesday 13th March (7.30pm) with the top seeded Steelers’ opponent to be decided.

The Glasgow Clan and Guildford Flames tied their Semi-Final first-leg 0-0 with the second-leg taking place on Wednesday 7th February in Guildford.

Photo credit: Dean Woolley and Hayley Roberts