SHEFFIELD, U.K. – The Sheffield Steelers took to home ice to kick-start their quest for EIHL silverware with a feisty encounter against bitter rivals the Cardiff Devils.
Both teams featured an array of new players after a summer clearout for both sides, but it was the Devils who would take away the two points on the Saturday with a 4-2 win.
The Steelers started off the first period strongly, but due to a defensive error from Steelers defenceman Rod Sarich, the Devils capitalised with Assistant Captain Max Birbraer firing home a neat finish at 7:05 making it 1-0 to the Devils.
Both teams pressed but couldn’t convert their chances, with the visitors out shooting the Steelers narrowly by 12 shots to 11. The first period ended with the Devils Devin Didiomete and Steelers Tylor Michel getting acquainted with one and another, with both men picking up 2-minute minor penalties after a brief exchange of handbags.
A string of penalty trouble for the Devils early in the second period gifted Sheffield with a 5-on-3 powerplay, the Steelers Cory Pecker set up ex NHL defenceman Drew Fata who rifled home a well placed slapshot at 24:16 making it 1-1.
The Devils looked threatening but thanks to a world class double save by John DeCaro in the Sheffield goal, he kept the visitors at bay.
Sheffield countered and soon took the lead thanks to a well timed deflection from Lee Esders, who tipped home a Shawn Limpright pass at 34:54 making it 2-1.
A resurgent third period comeback by the Devils ensured that the game wasn’t quite over, with former Steeler Phil Hill netting on the powerplay to tie the game up at 47:28.
Notorious new Devil Devin Didiomete who is known for talking the talk off the ice, certainly walked the walk on it after he fed Stuart MacRae with an inch perfect pass who fired home nicely at 53:02 giving the Devils a 3-2 lead.
Cardiff dominated the third period and after a rare Jeff Legue giveaway, the Devils widened the gap to two, thanks to a goal from Ben Davies at 58:32 ensuring the Devils took a 4-2 lead and travelled back to South Wales with the two points.
The Steelers travelled down to the Welsh capital 24 hours later and
Like last night it was the Devils who got on the board first thanks to a fortuitous goal by new boy Mac Faulkner at 12:08 sending the majority of the 1761 fans in the Big Blue Tent into raptures, making it 1-0 to the hosts.
The Steelers pressed and with just ten seconds remaining in the period, Steelers Captain and former Devil Jonathan Phillips restored parity with a shorthanded goal at 19.50.
Both teams came out strong in the second period, but it was the visitors who were to take the lead for the first time in the game. Cory Pecker was on hand back post to fire home a close range effort on the powerplay at 21:59.
Neither team could score again in the second period, a period that the visitors outshot the Devils by 12 shots to 7.
The Steelers were off the mark quickly in the third period and took a two goal lead thanks to Jonathan Phillips with his second of the night after a scramble in front of the net, making it 3-1 at 42:18.
The Devils soon fought back and Mac Faulkner netted his second of the night with a nice wrap around effort at 46:36 to bring the game to within a goal.
Sheffield once again outshot the hosts in the third period, but couldn’t find a way past the outstanding Devils goaltender Phil Osaer, who is in his second spell with the Welsh outfit.
The Devils tied the game up at 3-3 courtesy of the impressive Mac Faulkner, the imposing number 11, was on hand to hit home a Tyson Marsh rebound at 51:34 on the powerplay, with the goal completing Faulkner’s hat trick.
No further scoring followed in the remaining eight and a half minutes, ensuring that the game was going to overtime, for the first time this season.
Overtime was a tense affair with both teams exchanging chances, and Sheffield ensured a nervy finish as they were assessed a too many men penalty in the final minute of overtime, with Ashley Tait picking up a ten-minute misconduct penalty on the play.
John DeCaro and the Sheffield Steelers held firm, as the clocked ticked away, meaning that the game would be settled with a penalty shootout.
The bumper crowd was on the edge of their seats but neither team could convert from their first three shots.
The Steelers Colin Shields and Devils’ Mac Faulkner both netted on their second attempts, with Cory Pecker and Jamie Milam to take the all important final shots of the game.
It was the Steelers marksman Cory Pecker who sent the travelling fans into pandemonium with his sublimely taken shot ensuring Sheffield travelled the ling journey home the happier of the two teams and with two points in the bag.
After the deflating loss in Sheffield, Steelers Head Coach Ryan Finnerty was much happier with the avenged win in Cardiff, “That was a lot better, we played a lot more like I know we can play, and there is still a lot more to come,” Finnerty said. “I started to see what I thought I would see a little earlier, we got some big performances out of some of our big players tonight. We didn’t complicate things, we kept everything simple and worked our socks off. The second period was the best we have played all year,” Finnerty explained.
“Overall im satisfied with tonight. There was pressure on the guys after the way we played last night. They responded well, they bounced back and showed a lot of character. We now have to take our road form into the Arena next weekend against Coventry,” Finnerty added.
Contact the author at Scott.firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow us on Twitter @prohockeynews