Rookie netminder James Downie led the way with a man-of-the-match performance on his first start, as Storm opened their exhibition campaign with a 4-3 shootout away win over the Coventry Blaze at the Skydome Arena.

Downie made 22 saves and then stopped all four Blaze penalty shots to give Storm a winning start to preseason. The team travelled south to the West Midlands without Wade MacLeod, Matt Ginn, and Frankie Melton, giving young British players like Finlay Ulrick, Ben Solder, Jacob Lutwyche, Joe Hazeldine, and Downie the chance for some extended ice time.

Both teams quickly discarded their off-season rust but it was Coventry who netted first, Austin Mitchell-King setting himself up with a nice toe-drag to open the scoring unassisted at 16:20 before Evan Bloodoff doubled the lead at 35:04. With time running short, Joe Hazeldine halved the deficit at 51:17 with a calm finish from the slot after a scramble in front of Blaze netminder Jordan Hedley, who had replaced CJ Motte after 40 minutes.

Storm were quickly level with Liam Morgan poking the puck home from close range at 52:22, and returning forward Tyson Fawcett scored what looked like a game-winner at 55:09, using his strength to hold off the Coventry defenceman before finishing on the backhand.

Coventry found a way back through, with GB star Luke Ferrara firing a one-timer in on the powerplay after a good feed from Matthew Thompson.

Storm had the better of overtime but had to navigate a late penalty kill to reach penalty shots. Captain Dallas Erhardt scored the winning penalty shot and Tyson Fawcett added some insurance, but the star of the show was young GB netminder Downie, who saved all four Blaze attempts to give Storm an opening win.

Photo Credit: Scott Wiggins

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