Nottingham Vipers 2 Coventry Phoenix 5
Nottingham Vipers entered this game on the back of a fine 7-4 win at Sheffield, following a disappointing home defeat against Billingham. Although Coventry had lost their previous game to Kingston, they had won their previous 3 and were therefore eager to turn their recent record into 4 wins from 5. Despite the hard work of Robin Mullen in attack, was the Phoenix who emerged victorious, taking advantage of the Vipers’ short bench.
After a scrappy start to the game, Nottingham’s Robin Mullen managed to get the first shot away, saved easily by net minder Tomara Donaghue. This then precipitated a phase of Coventry pressure during which Coventry could not generate a meaningful chance but equally, Nottingham were unable to clear effectively. The pressure was released when Robin Mullen had a great shot from the left saved by Donaghue, followed up by a shot from Lucy Kendall from the blue line. Attack then went back into defence when Debra Gibson was forced to make a great save by a swift Coventry attack. There then followed a series of break-out chances; in the first instance Rebecca Cooke had a shot padded away by Tamara Donaghue, this was followed by a Coventry shot which had to be saved by the right hand pipe and finally Robin Mullen nearly broke the deadlock with a shot which powered into the net minder. Coventry then went onto the offensive, aided by Nottingham’s inability to clear the puck, resulting in Debra Gibson having to freeze the puck in front of a crowd of players. The resulting face off produced a sharp shot which had to be saved at the right hand pipe; the puck was eventually cleared with icing called. From the resulting face off Rosanne Adey scored an even handed unassisted goal to Debra Gibson’s left on 9.31. Directly from the re-start, Coventry nearly scored from the right, the Viper’s only saved by Debra Gibson’s alertness. A further shot from the blue line went over the goal, bounced back from the plexi and produced a perfect shooting opportunity for Hayley Laverick who duly dispatched the puck on 9.58 (assisted Preston Gennoe). The remainder of the period then followed a pattern by which most of the play took place in the Vipers end, with Coventry much more composed on the puck. This pressure was punctuated by the valiant efforts of Robin Mullen. In one case a cleared puck was chased down, Robin then cut in from the left and nearly scored inside the right pipe. Later on, she nearly scored again from another breakaway with the rebound nearly being buried by Emma French. Unfortunately, this was Vipers’ last chance of the period and they found themselves 2 goals down. (Shots on goal 7-9; penalties 2-0.).
The Vipers began Period 2 knowing that they had to pull something back early on if they were to have a chance of getting back into the game. Emma French was soon in the action with a shot which was saved by Donaghue to her left. The resulting face off nearly brought further grief to the Vipers as it generated a Coventry break out which was snuffed out by Debra Gibson. Further pressure from the Vipers produced shots from Rebecca Cooke and Stephanie Thompson, the latter resulting in a melee in front of the Phoenix net which ended with a frozen puck right on the line. From the resulting face off, Emma French shot over the Coventry bar; the resulting bounce from the plexi then brought a Coventry attack which resulted in a pad save from Debra Gibson. Thoughts of a goal almost came to fruition when a run from Lucy Ebinger down the right forced a diving save from the Coventry nettie. From the face off, Kendra Hourd nearly squeezed the puck home in from the left. It was then the Vipers’ turn to breathe a sigh of relief when Debra Gibson was confronted with a 3 on 1 break. Fortunately for her and the Vipers, the final pass was poor and she was able to freeze the puck. However, this attack was a portent of what was to come. At 22.32 Hannah Worthington cut in from the right, taking advantage of Vipers’ inability to control the puck in centre ice, and put the puck past Debra Gibson’s right hand post to extend Coventry’s lead. The assist was given to Crystal Wilkins. Rebecca Cooke attempted to get one back but this was saved by Tamara Donaghue. Coventry continued to be the stronger team; Nottingham’s inability to connect passes together in centre ice meant they were always at a disadvantage from the point of view of initiating a sustained period of offence. At the end of the period Robin Mullen was given a 2 minute minor for a body check. The face off nearly generated a fourth goal for Coventry but the puck whistled past Debra Gibson’s left pipe. That attempt marked the end of the period, with Nottingham having a further 1 minute of penalty kill to withstand at the start of the third period. (Shots on goal 6-12; penalties 2-0).
The final period began with Coventry having a further 1 minute of power play to extend their lead. This produced some pressure on the Vipers’ net but both shots were saved easily by Debra Gibson. Out of nothing, Nottingham had a lifeline with Robin Mullen scoring 2 unassisted back to back goals on 31.27 and 31.55. The first was an inspired move down the left wing with a cut back into the centre to create the shooting chance. The second goal almost came immediately from the re-start with Robin powering through centre ice to slot the puck past the Coventry net minder. Ironically, she nearly scored again with another pick up in centre ice but was unlucky with the final shot. An opportunity to embrace the new momentum which the game had taken emerged on 35.10 when Preston Gennoe received a 2 minute tripping call. The power play produced 2 substantive shots on goal. The first was from a cross by Robin Mullen to Catherine Jones who hit over and a second from Robin Mullen who took the most direct route to goal from centre ice, only for the puck to be buried by the net minder. However, the Vipers never really took the chance to cycle the puck as they were dispossessed too easily in centre ice. There followed a phase of play which took place in the Vipers’ half but produced no meaningful shot on goal from the Phoenix. However the dynamic of the game changed following an altercation on the right wing between Emma French (2+10) and Hayley Laverick (2). The Vipers then enjoyed the advantage of the extra skater when Agnese Zirdzina took a 2 minute hooking penalty on 41.14. However, the Vipers’ seemed to spend much of the time pinned in their own half unable to break out. Any hope that the Vipers might have had with respect to pulling something back was killed off when Rosanne Adey scored an even handed goal on 43.33. Vipers took a time out but it was inevitable, based on what had happened so far, that the Vipers would be unable to take advantage of the extra skater. Coventry duly ran in an expected empty netter on 43.55. A disappointing end to the game but, on balance, Coventry did outplay the Vipers in the key areas. The final score was about right. (shots on goal: 7-11; penalties 12-6).
The spirit of the game award was given to Lucy Ebinger #11 which was thoroughly deserved for her hard work and passion every shift.