Elite League: Stingrays find way to extinguish Blaze

HULL STINGRAYS finally defeated title favourites Coventry Blaze to boost their outside hopes of avoiding a last-place finish in the Elite League.

Saturday's 2-1 victory over Paul Thompson's side - courtesy of goals from Konstantin Kalmikov and Lee Mitchell - moved Hull to within seven points of next-to-bottom Newcastle Vipers with nine games remaining and one game in hand on their North East rivals.

Hull also have to play Rob Wilson's side - who on Saturday lost for a second successive night to Sheffield Steelers - three more times before the regular season ends, meaning they can, mathematically, haul themselves into seventh spot and, in theory, avoid having to play against the league champions in the first round of the post-season play-offs.

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Player-coach Sylvain Cloutier was delighted to end his long wait for victory over the club he helped win two Elite League titles in 2007 and 2008.

"It was nice to finally beat Coventry," said Cloutier.

"The guys played well for 60 minutes, we did not get too down when they got their goal, we kept plugging away and got a big win."

Cloutier was also quick to praise 22-year-old Scot Mitchell, who struck the game-winning goal at 43.32 after Coventry had taken a 14th-minute lead through Luke Fulghum, which was subsequently cancelled out by Kalmikov's 29th-minute leveller.

"I am really pleased for Mitch," added Cloutioer. "When I found him all alone I was willing him to bury it. He made a nice move and it was a big goal for us.

"Mitch wants to win more than anyone. He really wants to be a part of this, he cares and he comes to work every night. He is a big part of our team and someone I can count on at all times."

Vipers were sunk for the second night running by a rejuvenated Steelers side who seem determined to finish the regular season in fifth place, thereby booking themselves a probably play-off showdown with Cardiff Devils, the team most likely to finish fourth.

After winning 6-3 against Newcastle at Sheffield Arena on Friday night, Steelers carried on where they left off in Whitley Bay, bombarding the home goal with no fewer than 23 shots and deservedly taking a two-goal lead into the second session through Matt Hubbauer, at 1.52 and Jeff Legue's 34th at 12.21.

The home side drew level in the second period through strikes from Jason Tejchma and Ben Campbell before Steelers regained control, getting themselves back in front through Jonathan Zion at 46.36 before Hubbauer grabbed his 25th of the season with an empty net strike with five seconds left on the clock.

Steelers - who welcome Hull to Sheffield Arena on Sunday night (6pm) - now sit two points behind fifth-placed Edinburgh Capitals, although they have played two games more than their Scottish rivals.


Hull Stingrays 2 Coventry Blaze 1

Newcastle Vipers 2 Sheffield Steelers 4

Nottingham Panthers 2 Cardiff Devils 3 (SO)

Belfast Giants 1 Edinburgh Capitals 0 (Abandoned at 39.58 due to 'hole in the ice')