WEEKEND PREVIEW: Keeno enjoying Blaze buzz
The Genting Casino Coventry Blaze aim to keep their Elite League win streak alight against the Nottingham Panthers at the Motorpoint Arena on Saturday (7pm) before welcoming the Belfast Giants to the Skydome Arena on Sunday (5.15pm).
The Blaze earned a hard fought four points last weekend, putting them fifth in the league table entering the second month of the season.
This Saturday, Danny Stewart’s team head to Nottingham to face the Panthers for the second time this season. The previous encounter saw Coventry score two late to grab a well-earned point, eventually falling on penalty-shots. Panthers currently lead the league, having played more games than anyone else, but winning 6 from 8 so far.
At the opposite end of the table, surprisingly for many, sit Sunday’s opponents at the Skydome, Belfast Giants with 1 win from 4 games. By the time they arrive in Coventry, Adam Keefe’s side will hope to have moved away from the bottom place, taking on the team just above them Milton Keynes Lightning on both Friday and Saturday.
Earlier this week, Adam Partoon caught up with Skills and Development Coach Dayle Keen to preview the weekend’s action and discuss current goings on around the Elite League.
AP: This weekend, we are facing two big arena clubs - but from a Blaze perspective, presumably we are approaching it as more of the same?
DK: We always try and take a similar mind-set into every game. Play our systems and outwork the other teams. I believe that we can compete with anyone on any given night so we just have to focus on playing our best hockey for 60 minutes.
AP: When you look at the cup fixtures as well, both Nottingham and Belfast have been up and down so far this season, do you think this is a reflection on the standard of the league, or is it just expected at this time of year?
DK: A bit both to be honest. I firmly believe that every team can take points off of anyone else, which is fantastic for the league. The league has had some surprising results so far but I reckon the team that wants the win most on the night will earn it.
AP: Speaking of ups and downs, it was Paul Thompson’s last game behind the Sheffield bench last weekend against the Blaze. I guess you’re sad to see a British coach feel the need to give up his job?
DK: As a young British coach, it’s of course sad for me to see a truly incredible coach take a step back. Guys like Thommo are an inspiration to any aspiring coach. Regardless of how results have panned out for him this season, he has led an incredible career and I have no doubt that we will see him behind a bench again at some point.
AP: Two big wins last weekend, I am sure the confidence in the locker room is high, are you encouraging level heads, or to ride that confidence into these next games?
DK: We always encourage level heads but we have a real true group of top professionals that are able to manage their emotions and performance.
AP: From the opposing teams this weekend, what are you expecting to be the biggest challenge?
DK: Both teams have great skill and can punish teams off any situation. We haven’t seen Belfast in the flesh yet, but Nottingham we saw bring a really physical game, but we can handle that.
AP: And of course, how are you enjoying the bigger role with the club?
DK: I’m really enjoying being full time with the Blaze. It’s a fantastic organisation to be a part of and there is a really good buzz around the rink at the moment.
AP: Finally, a tough one to finish on. On Sunday the iExcellence Player of the Month Award for September will be awarded - who gets your vote?
DK: I can’t answer that question. I honestly couldn’t in a million years figure out who could come out on top. Every single guy is bringing their A game to the ice so it makes the task of picking one almost impossible.
Blaze vs. Giants Tickets
Sunday (5.15pm) at the Skydome Arena.
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