SHEFFIELD, U.K. – The Sheffield Steelers moved up to second in the Elite League standings last night after a hard fought come from behind win against the impressive and much improved Dundee Stars.
Steelers back up goaltender Geoff Woolhouse was given the start in goal, his second in the last three games.
Many Scottish teams could be forgiven for having ‘bus legs’ in the first period of a game against the Erhardt Conference topping Sheffield Steelers, but not the Stars who would dazzle the Steelers with a ferocious first period onslaught.
A strong crowd at Ice Sheffield were gobsmacked when the visitors went two ahead within the first four minutes, after some relentless forechecking and an unmatchable work rate.
The Stars’ defenceman Matt Baxter opened his teams account after just 34 seconds with a neat finish from the hash marks for his sixth of the season, making it 1-0.
The Stars soon doubled their advantage when Tristan Harper fired a well placed wristshot over Geoff Woolhouse’s blocker to make it 2-0 at 3:05, much to the dismay of the Steelers fans in attendance.
The Steelers pressed but were kept at bay by the Stars ex-AHL goaltender Nic Riopel with a string of impressive saves, demonstrating why he leads the EIHL with a save percentage of 0.928.
The hosts were unlucky not to pull a goal back in the fourteenth minute with Great Britain international Ashley Tait being denied by the Stars crossbar.
The second period saw a resurgent Sheffield Steelers claw their way back into the game and dominate, as they out shot the Stars by 14-3.
Tylor Michel came close for the hosts at 26:15 when he made a nice move around the Stars defence and had Riopel beat, only for his shot to go agonisingly close past the near post.
At 33:35 the Steelers got their lifeline as Ashley Tait found fellow countryman Colin Shields unmarked at the back post, with Shields firing high past Riopel to bring the game to within a goal.
Less than a minute later the Steelers were gifted a powerplay opportunity with Stars forward Bill Bagron sitting in the box for a hooking minor.
The Steelers duly obliged of their chance as ex NHL’er Steven Goertzen was on hand to tap home a back post rebound after a Drew Fata shot at 34:31 to tie the game up 2-2.
The Stars almost regained the lead moments later after a bad pass from Steelers defenceman Rod Sarich in the Stars defensive zone led to a 2-on-1 chance for the visitors with Mike Wirll being denied after a good save from Sheffield-born Geoff Woolhouse.
Both teams came out strong in the third period and Sheffield took the lead for the first time in the game courtesy of Captain Jonathan Phillips who fired home a low rebound from the left wing after an initial Tylor Michel shot to make it 3-2 at 43:23.
Less than twenty seconds after the goal tempers frayed between the two teams, when the Steelers Shawn Limpright was hooked back by Tristan Harper as he beared down on goal, resulting in Limpright falling into Stars goaltender Nic Riopel.
A melee ensued in which Riopel hit Limpright in the face with his blocker, causing the Steelers star to erupt and go after the goaltender.
Steelers tough guy Tom Sestito seeked retribution and floored Riopel with a well timed trip to the ice.
Steelers ran into penalty trouble in the third period, giving the visitors three powerplay chances.
The first of these chances were to prove vital for the Scottish side as Stars’ defenceman Pat Bowen rifled home a thunderous slapshot from the point to restore parity at 52:29.
Only a couple of minutes later the Stars were gifted a 5-on-3 powerplay ensuring that the capacity crowd were on the edge of their seats for a nervy final five minutes.
The Steelers managed to kill off the penalties with some watertight defending led by the imposing Drew Fata and Steelers stalwart Rod Sarich.
With just over two minutes of the game remaining the Steelers called a timeout in vein, to rally the troops for one last onslaught on the defiant Stars to try and tie the game up.
With just 90 seconds on the clock Steelers Head Coach Ryan Finnerty opted for an extra attacker and pulled goaltender Geoff Woolhouse, who was replaced by gritty forward Tylor Michel.
The clock was ticking away and there was only 15 seconds remaining when Tylor Michel was on hand to tap home a rebound after a goalmouth scramble to tie the game up at 3-3 much to the relief and delight of the vociferous Sheffield crowd.
What was to follow in overtime was truly bemusing and far more rare than a lunar eclipse.
At 62:17 Stars netminder Nic Riopel was judged to have deliberately displaced the net from its moorings resulting in referee Andy Carson awarding the Steelers with a penalty shot.
The man given the unenviable and highly pressured task was Shawn Limpright, a man who Riopel had angered with a blocker to the head just twenty minutes previous.
Limpright stood at centre ice knowing the enormity of what lied ahead, not just a score to settle with the goaltender but one in which would settle the outcome of the game and where the all important two points were destined.
The 31-year-old Canadian skated down the right wing and cut across goal and pulled the trigger with his shot beating Riopel low glove side to secure the extra point for the Steelers and to send the ecstatic crowd into pandemonium.
Steelers Head Coach Ryan Finnerty was quick to heap praise on Limpright after his game winner, “ He is the most laid back player, whilst the rest of us were all anxious and nervous he didn’t look like he had a care in the world as he took that penalty shot, it all looked like it was just another shot,” Finnerty said.
“He let that release go quickly and from the bench we got the perfect view. There wasn’t anything the goalie could have done about that, a great way for us to end the game,” Finnerty added.
Contact the author at Scott.email@example.com
Follow Pro Hockey News on Twitter – @prohockeynews
Follow the author on Twitter – @cliffy94