Iice Hockey: Storm made to work hard in cup

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The Independent Online
MANCHESTER STORM and Ayr Scottish Eagles both sustained their winning streaks in last night's Benson and Hedges Cup semi-final first leg games, overcoming Nottingham Panthers and London Knights respectively.

The Superleague leaders, Manchester, fresh from their 10-1 demolition of Newcastle Riverkings on Sunday, found the Panthers somewhat tougher opponents and were 2-1 down going into the final period, but late strikes from Pierre Allard and Brad Rubachuk - the latter's second of the night - eventually earned them a close 3-2 victory to leave the tie finely balanced for the second leg.

Ayr Scottish Eagles followed up their 4-1 Superleague victory over London Knights on Sunday with a 6-4 win over the same opposition in last night's Cup tie. The Knights, however, still have plenty to play for in the return.

Scott Kirton gave the Knights the lead, but Sam Groleau tied it up for a 1-1 first period before two goals for Shawn Byram and a second from Groleau put the Eagles 4-1 ahead. Greg Gatto pulled one back for London and, although Mark Montanari made it 5-2, the visitors hit back through Bruce Eakin and Mike Harding.

In a gripping finish, David St Pierre's goal four minutes from time gave the Eagles a two-goal first-leg advantage.

On Sunday night, Manchester's record-breaking victory - their 11th successive home win - had been inspired by Jeff Tomlinson and Troy Neumeier, who scored two each, while Rick Brebant, Kelly Askew, Dave Morrison, Mike Morin, Brad Rubachuk and Blair Scott also netted.

The Riverkings, who, incredibly, are the only domestic club to have beaten Storm this season, gained a consolation through Roy Trumbley.

In Sunday's other league game Cardiff Devils fought back from two goals down to beat Bracknell Bees 6-3. Steve Thornton, Nicky Chinn, Mario Simioni, Merv Priest, Saku Eklof and Doug McEwen were the men on target for the Welshmen.