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Storm survive Panther’s pressure to make weekend hockey playoffs

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Manchester Storm 2 Nottingham Panthers 3

By Adam McKinney


A resurrected Storm took to the ice on Sunday after years in the hockey wilderness against the Nottingham Panthers in the last but most vital game of the season. This was a chance to secure a place in the League playoffs and re-establish themselves in the upper echelons of British ice hockey.

With the Arena sold out well before face-off, the thunderous rapture of the home fans could be felt in the Storm shelter; anxiety and anticipation in almost equal measure. If Storm could better the score between Coventry Blaze and Sheffield Steelers in a game that started 30 minutes earlier than this, they would make the play offs.

From the drop of the puck the Storm reacted with urgency, their offensive line looking hungry. In the opening minutes both goalies were tested with several shots which were beaten away or smothered.

The Storm weathered the pressure and began to look dominant. Bone-crunching hits left the safety boards round the rink rattling and the action was edge of the seat stuff in a tense opening period.

Storm broke the deadlock first as Mario Trabucco netted on the break with a blistering wrist flick, to the elation of the crowd. As the first period came to an end fans around the Arena could be heard keeping track of the Coventry-Sheffield result.

Brave saves by both goalies marked the early action in the second half until Panthers’ Jason Williams equalized with a wonderful solo effort.

Storm responded well and began to control the game using a well drilled system in the offensive zone and the hard work paid off when Trevor Johnson rifled home a wristflick like a bullet.

With Storm leading 2-1 the place was rocking, but the cheers had not died away before a moment of pure hockey magic saw Andy Sertich stickhandle through solo and deke the keeper to level the scores at 2-2.

With the ice thawing and ruled unfit to continue play, both sides agreed to a shootout, which Nottingham won to make the final score 3-2.

The result means Panthers finish fourth in the Elite League and now go into the play-offs against Sheffield Steelers. Because Coventry lost 4-1, Storm qualified for the play offs and now face a trip to Cardiff for their tie on Saturday.

Is 2017 an unexpected year of glory for the Storm? I’m sure all Storm fans and hockey fans around Britain are hoping so.

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