October 22nd, 2016

Coventry Blaze skipper gunning for glory again

Updated: 3:02 pm, May 07, 2015

BLAZE legend Ashley Tait is hungry for more play-off glory ten years after playing a pivotal role in the club’s last success.

The 39-year-old will forever be remembered by the Blaze faithful for scoring the game-winning goal in overtime to secure a 2-1 victory over Nottingham Panthers which clinched the Grand Slam back in 2005.

Tait led the team to seven trophies in a five-year period in his first spell at the Skydome and is hoping to be a play-off winner for a second time with Blaze.

Blaze take on Belfast Giants in Saturday’s second semi-final in a repeat of their last-four showdown two years ago, which the Northern Irish side won 5-1.

“Belfast seem to be peaking at the right time,” said Tait. “When we played them a few weeks ago we had already made the play-offs and they could not finish any higher than fifth.

“But they played some of the best hockey I have seen all season. They also beat Cardiff in the first round so we know we are going to have to be ready against them.

“In hockey it is so week too week, you cannot think too far ahead. At one point we were not even thinking about the play-offs or the final four.

“We will prepare well for them all this week. It has been fairly even between us this season but this is now about a one-off game and whoever is good on the day. You never know.”

Defenceman Mike Egener believes goaltender Brian Stewart can be the key ingredient for Blaze heading into the weekend.

Stewart has been short-listed for Netminder of the Year, along with Kyle Jones (Braehead Clan) and Ben Bowns (Cardiff Devils), after a stellar season in-between the sticks.

The Canadian was again in formidable form, saving 81 of the 85 shots he faced as Blaze knocked out four-time winners Nottingham Panthers to reach the semi-finals.

And Egener knows Stewart will have a big part to play as he targets revenge against Belfast who beat Blaze the last time they reached the finals weekend.

He added: “We have had great goaltending all season. Stewie is a big-game player and he held his ground in both games against Nottingham.

“In my opinion he should win it (Netminder of the Year), no question. Every game he has given us a chance. He has that battle in him, even in practice he just never gives up on a shot.

“He is a massive reason why we are in the final four. He is very athletic and he has a high compete level. He likes to challenge and he makes things much easier for the defensive core knowing they have someone behind them who will make that stop.”

“Belfast have a lot of experience and a lot of depth. But I think we match up well with anybody, it doesn’t matter who we are playing. We have been playing play-off hockey for the last month or so and have been beating everyone just to get into the play-offs.

“Hopefully we are able to be on the opposite side this time and be playing in the final which will be a lot of fun. Anything can happen.”