SHEFFIELD, U.K. – The Sheffield Steelers kicked off their 2012/13 seasonat the Motorpoint Arena on Saturday in a ‘friendly’ game against local rivals the Coventry Blaze, in a match that was anything but friendly.
Both teams came flying out the gates, and it wasn’t long until the blue touch paper was lit with the Steelers Matt Stephenson and Benn Olson of the Blaze dropping the gloves less than two minutes into the game, in an evenly contested bout. Both players sat five minutes for fighting, with Olson picking up an extra two-minute penalty for cross checking.
The Steelers dominated the opening period but it was the Blaze who were to score first against the run of play in a fortuitous fashion. Dustin Cameron tipped home a soft goal that bamboozled Steelers netminder John DeCaro who couldn’t do nothing but watch as the puck trickled past him at 14:10.
Sheffield were on level terms just four minutes later after Drew Fata rifled home a rocket from the blueline after a nice feed from fellow newcomer Corey Pecker to make it 1-1 at 18:01.
Sheffield came out strong in the second period and took the lead after just twenty seconds through ex-NHL’er Steve Goertzen, who fired high past Corey Hirsch in the Blaze goal, making it 2-1 to the home side at 20:40.
The Steelers goal seemed to light a fire in the bellies of the Blaze players as they rallied together and took control of the game, with Dustin Cameron finding himself in acres of space back post for a simple tap in after a nice Mike Schutte pass at 22:16 making it 2-2.
The impressive 23-year-old Cameron completed his hat trick marker at 24:34 when he raced down the left wing and fired the puck low 5-hole past DeCaro giving the Blaze a 3-2 lead.
Sheffield tried to claw their way back into the game, and tempers frayed once again after the Steelers’ Jason Hewitt hit Blaze defenceman Steven Chalmers from behind and he was assessed a 5+ game penalty for the illegal check.
Former NHL’er Brad Leeb took exception to the hit and seeked retribution on Hewitt, as he sucker punched the Steelers forward resulting in a broken nose. Leeb was assessed a match penalty for his troubles, and the EIHL disciplinary committee will review the incident and deem further punishment if needed.
During the fracas Benn Olson and Matt Stephenson renewed acquaintances once again, with the Blaze heavyweight claiming honours in a long one-sided bout.
After the incident it was business as usual for the Blaze who netted their fourth goal of the night on a 5-on-3 powerplay courtesy of Captain Shea Guthrie, who’s one-timer slapshot found the back of the net at 35:25.
The Steelers were determined to mount a comeback and almost did that just two minutes later, when Corey Pecker found himself on a breakaway, he fired low blocker side but Blaze goaltender Peter Hirsch pulled off an impressive save to deny the Steelers debutant.
The third period got underway, with both teams exchanging chances, but it was to be the Steelers who would score next after a nice move by the impressive Steve Goertzen who found Colin Shields high slot, with the Glaswegian firing home a blistering one-timer to bring the game to within one at 43:02.
Both teams pressed and the Steelers pulled DeCaro in the final minute in favour of the extra skater, but it wasn’t to be as the Blaze held on and took the victory at the final buzzer.
The two teams took to the ice 24-hours later but it was the Blaze who would play host to the South Yorkshire side at the Skydome.
A depleted Blaze side that were three imports down (Danton, B.Leeb, Domish) struggled to stave off a determined and resilient Steelers side who came away victors by a score of 3-1.
Former Braehead Clan defenceman James Jorgensen put the visitors ahead on the powerplay at 5:59 giving the Steelers a 1-0 lead.
Both teams pressed, but were held at bay thanks to some fine goaltending from the Steelers backup Geoff Woolhouse and the Blaze’s Peter Hirsch.
The Blaze came out of the gates first in the second period with the in-form Dustin Cameron netting the Blaze equaliser and his fourth of the weekend on the powerplay at 20:49.
Further goals from Colin Shields and Steve Goertzen ensured an impressive 3-1 road win for the Steelers, who look better and better each game.
Steelers Head Coach Ryan Finnerty offered his thoughts after the game, “I thought that was a much better performance than on Saturday. I think it was to be expected, Saturday was our first time out as a team and we looked ring rusty. I thought tonight we played very much better,” Finnerty said. “You have to remember that we hadn’t been on the ice very much and Saturday was our first game together so last night wasn’t a disaster by any way of the imagination. Just like this evening we have to remember that Coventry were a few guys short. Saying that I didn’t think it was a 3-1 game, I thought we were a little more comfortable than that,” Finnerty added.
The Steelers face the Cardiff Devils this weekend in their EIHL league opener, firstly in Sheffield on Saturday (9th September) before heading down to South Wales 24 hours later for the return fixture.
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