HULL Stingrays saw their four-match unbeaten run come to an end in a 2-1 Elite League defeat at Coventry Blaze on Sunday night.
The East Yorkshire club had extended their winning run to four games with a 4-2 victory over the same opponents at home in the Challenge Cup the previous night, although that match was effectively a dead rubber as both sides had already qualified for the quarter-final stages.
Missing top point-scorer Janis Ozolins as well as fellow forwards Cale Tanaka, Andy Ward and netminder Ben Bowns, Hull fell behind at Coventry’s Skydome Arena to a Sam Smith goal at 2.25.
Captain Shea Guthrie doubled Blaze’s lead at 6.51 and although Dominic Osman – with his 11th goal of the season and fifth in as many games – halved the deficit on a five-on-three powerplay at 28.12, that was as close as Hull got.
“They came out hard but we battled all night and kept going. It was close,” said Cloutier, who was also quick to praiseback-up goaltender Greg Blais, who he felt deputised admkirably for Great Britain back-up Ben Bowns, away in Japan with the national team.
“Greg played extremely well for us this weekend,” added Cloutier. “I knew he would do a good job.
“He gave us a chance to win last night with some big saves and kept us in the game tonight. I am proud of him.”
On Saturday, Ozolins put Stingrays ahead at 4.23 before Jereme Tendler doubled the advantage with a short-handed strike six minutes later.
But the Blaze hauled themselves level through NHL forward Matt Beleskey, who followed up his 34th minute powerplay strike with another on the man advantage at 36.24.
Osman restored Hull’s lead at 49.53 with a powerplay goal and made use of another man-advantage situation to make the game safe five minutes later.
SHEFFIELD Steeldogs bounced back from their 9-1 thrashing at the hands of Manchester Phoenix last Sunday, to see off Bracknell Bees 6-3 on Saturday before suffering a 3-2 shoot-out defeat to Milton Keynes Lightning last night.
Against Bracknell, Derek Campbell led the way with two goals, either side of the second period buzzer, with Steve Duncombe also on target twice. Captain Greg Wood and Pavel Gomeniuk also got on the scoresheet.
Sunday’s second home game of the weekend was a hard-fought affair, Ashley Calvert giving the Steeldogs a 16th-minute lead.
Adam Brittle levelled at 28.19 while the Lightning were short-handed, although it was only 36 seconds before the home side restored their one-goal advantage, thanks to defenceman Ben Morgan’s powerplay strike.
But just under six minutes before the end of the third, Nicholas Poole levelled again for the visitors who, after no further goals in overtime, edged out their hosts in the shoot-out.