LEADING by four goals at the second break, Newcastle Vipers held on in the final period to beat a team that started the night 18 points ahead of them in the league table.
The Vipers’ unexpected eighth win of the season, in which Patrik Forsbacka hit a hat-trick, came after a second player unexpectedly quit the club.
The team travelled to Coventry without their top goal scorer and second-placed points scorer Dale Mahovsky, who informed player-coach Danny Stewart yesterday that he had accepted an offer to play in North America and wouldn’t take to the ice against the Blaze.
Mahovsky scored his 16th and last goal for the Vipers in Saturday night’s 10-2 home victory against the Edinburgh Capitals. He also registered an assist to take his points production to 31 in 33 games.
Stewart responded saying: “This makes things tougher but we understand Dale’s decision. He has played very well for us and I wish him the best of luck for the future.”
Mahovsky quickly followed centre and top points scorer Jamie Carroll out of the door, with rumours of further departures from the financially-troubled club.
The Vipers began last night’s game with only 11 skaters, and their on-ice strength was reduced further when Jaroslav Rzeszutko was punished for slashing in the fourth minute.
Three minutes after killing the penalty, the Vipers went ahead when Mike Prpich set up Jamie Tinsley for his fourth goal of the season – and the second of the weekend.
The assist was the in-form Prpich’s sixth of the weekend and seventh point.
After killing two further penalties, the Vipers enjoyed a run of three successive powerplays, two penalties overlapping for a short five on three-man advantage.
And they capitalised on the third, when Patrik Forsbacka became joint top goal scorer with Mahovsky with 13 seconds of the period left to play.
Netmnder Charlie Effinger had made 19 saves for a first period shut out but he was beaten a minute after the teams had returned to the ice after by Robert Farmer.
Just over eight minutes later and in the space of just 14 seconds, the Vipers delivered a two-goal burst that put them in command of the game.
Brad Cruickshank was sitting out a roughing penalty when Forsbacka added his second of the night and from the face off, the Vipers went 1-4 ahead through Prpich, both goals being scored in the 30th minute.
Stewart had the satisfaction of contributing to his team’s fifth and third powerplay goal of the game on 34 minutes, with Forsbacka achieving his hat-trick – and it was to prove the decisive strike.
The third period started with Forsbacka serving an overlapping penalty and 21 seconds after the starting face-off, Aaron Neil struck a powerplay marker to make the score 2-5.
If the 29th minute had been a golden time for the Vipers, the 49th was a black one as Neil scored again before seconds later Prprich was ordered off the ice for hooking and youngster Ross Venus quickly capitalised on the man advantage.
Meanwhile on Saturday night, Rzeszutko scored a hat-trick as the Vipers easily won the match between the Elite League’s bottom two clubs, victory moving Stewart’s side above the Scottish outfit as a result.
Rzesutko scored the only two goals of the first period (nine and 13 minutes, both powerplay successes ) and then had a blade in the third scored by Toms Hartmanis, three minutes into the middle period.
Nick Fanto pulled one back before Prpich (26 minutes), Mahovsky (34 minutes, powerplay), and Danny Stewart (19 minutes) made it 6-1 at the second break. In the first attack of the third period, Kyle Horne made it 6-2 but the Vipers went five goals ahead again when Rzeszutko hit his hat-trick marker on 37 minutes.
Less than a minute later, Tinsley hit the Vipers’ eighth while the rout was completed by Dean Holland (52 minutes) and Sam Zajac (59 minutes) to cap a great night for Newcastle.
BLAZE: Neil 2+1, Venus 1+1, Farmer 1+0, Chambers 0+2, Fulghum and Owen 0+1.
VIPERS: Forsbacka 3+0, Prpich 1+2, Tinsley 1+0, Rzeszutko and Zajac 0+2, Stewart 0+1.
VIPERS: Rzeszutko 3+3, Prpich 1+5, Hartmanis 1+4, Holland, Mahovsky and Zajac 1+1, Stewart and Tinsley 1+0, Sample 0+2, Forsbacka and Sibley 0+1.
CAPITALS: Fanto 1+1, Horne 1+0, Cingel, Hay and Hutchins 0+1.