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ICE HOCKEY: A hard grind, but Blaze take revenge.

Byline: By ANTONY HOPKER

Coventry Blaze 3 Belfast Giants 1

IT WASN'T pretty, but Coventry Blaze gained revenge for their defeat in Belfast last weekend, and in doing so moved above the Giants in the league table.

The 3-1 victory was an open affair, but lacked the intensity that other games have shown in recent week.

Belfast, playing their third game in five days, looked tired and were missing two defencemen - enough to force them to play mainly with two lines, and with a forward back on the blue line, despite having Graeme Walton on the bench.

Blaze took an early hold, with an opener from Joel Poirier that showed the potential of Chris McNamara. Sharp throughout, he sliced through the Giants defence as if it wasn't there, and tucked a pass back neatly to the waiting Poirier.

His speed and size looks set to torment defences all season, and with Andre Payette on the other wing, the trio could set up a formidable partnership.

After going two up with Adam Calder tipping home a Michal Vrabel slapshot, Blaze should have wrapped the game up. On another night, Dan Carlson should have had a hat trick - but in a game punctuated by penalty calls, and an unusual amount of cuts caused by high sticks, the moves didn't seem to come off, and chance after chance trickled past the open goal.

Shane Johnson struck a well-hit shot to beat Jody Lehman, who showed some good form under pressure, but the game ran out of pace.

Belfast looked short of ideas, but with just one goal in it, still had a chance. Pulling their netminder at the end of the game, they made one final push. Poirier won the puck in the Coventry zone and scuffed a shot down into the empty net.

Coach Paul Thompson said afterwards: "I don't think it was our prettiest game of the year but we did the job and got the win. We certainly created enough chances, and I think Dan Carlson must have broken a mirror this morning for him not to get a goal.

"McNamara gets stronger with every game and that Poirier line was the strongest for us by far."

Former Blaze passions were re-ignited in Newcastle last night as the Vipers beat Milton Keynes 4-2.

Rob Trumbley fought with ex-Blaze forward Kurt Irvine over an incident at the Skydome two years ago, when Trumbley suffered a badly broken finger, and the pair were ejected after just four minutes.

Old Blaze players scored all the Newcastle goals - Steve Gallace getting two, Shaun Johnson and Michael Tasker one each - while Steve Carpenter hit the net for Lightning.

CAPTION(S):

ON TARGET: Joel Poirier rams home Blaze's openerl from point-blank range after fine work by Chris McNamara . Picture: MARK TREDGOLD
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Oct 11, 2004
Words:465
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