SHEFFIELD, U.K. – The Sheffield Steelers recorded there second consecutive four-point weekend with an impressive road win against the Panthers, before a nail biting shootout win against the Giants at the Motorpoint Arena.
Sheffield first made the short journey down the road to battle out with bitter rivals the Nottingham Panthers on Saturday night in front of a bumper crowd at the National Ice Centre, eventually coming away 3-2 winners.
The scoreline flattered the hosts, as Sheffield were the much better team on the night, playing a Panthers team that lacked passion and effort, something which they have always had in abundance for the last few years.
It was a sorry sight to see a Panthers team who looked a shadow of them former selves, with Sheffield picking apart their weaknesses and capitalising against an under par Panthers team.
Sheffield who opened their account early took the lead through Jason Hewitt, who was sprawling on the ice and luckily managed to direct the puck between Panthers keeper Craig Kowalski’s legs whilst he was on his knees to make it 1-0 at 10:50.
The game, as always between the two fierce rivals was a tempestuous affair with some big hits being delivered by both teams. One such hit, started a melee in front of the Steelers goal, with the Steelers Steven Goertzen and the Panthers Jason Beckett dropping the gloves and trading punches in a ling and spirited bout.
The Panthers defenceman took the win even though he unfairly jumped Goertzen from behind to get the upper hand early in the bout and he was also assessed a game penalty for being the third man in.
Both teams pressed but neither could find the back of the net in the opening twenty minutes.
Both teams came out firing in the second period, one in which the Panthers stepped up the tempo and looked threatening for the first time on the game.
Sheffield doubled their advantage with a great solo effort from Jeff Legue at 24:54 subduing the normally raucous Panther contingent in the NIC.
At 28:31 the Panthers came close with Matt Francis nearly pulling a goal back, but being denied by Steelers defenceman Mark Thomas who blocked Francis’s effort on the line whilst on his knees in a fine display of defending.
The visitors soon netted their third of the night at 34:34 on the powerplay thanks to former Panther Ashley Tait, with the goal being his 512th point in the Elite League setting a new record in the process of being the tope EIHL point scorer of all time.
After such a momentous occasion, another unforgettable moment occurred but for altogether different reasons. Great Britain team mates Colin Shields and David Clarke of the Steelers and Panthers respectively, came together after a hit on the boards and decided to drop the gloves and go at it, in a fairly contested and entertaining fight.
A resurgent Panthers team came out strongly in the third period and soon netted their first of the night on the powerplay courtesy of Matt Myers at 44:26 after a nice pass from Brandon Benedict.
Both teams exchanged efforts in the third period with Neilson of the Panthers and Shields of the Steelers, both hitting the pipework.
With less than five minutes of the game remaining the Panthers rather robust defenceman Martin Tuma jumped Sheffield’s Shawn Limpright from behind earning himself an early shower.
During the same incident Colin Shields and David Clarke renewed their earlier hostilities with a second round of pugilism, this time the Steelers forward claimed the honours in a short bout.
With less than two minutes of the game remaining the Panthers ensured a nervy finish as Eric Werner hit home a late effort for the hosts shorthanded at 58:06.
The Panthers pulled Kowalski in favour of an extra forward with just 42 seconds remaining, but Sheffield held firm to see out the game and collect a well deserved win and the two points.
Sheffield then played host to the Belfast Giants 24 hours later eventually coming away with a 5-4 win after an enthralling display at the Motorpoint Arena. The hosts got off to the perfect start as Rod Sarich fired home a wrist shot from the blueline at 2:18 giving his team a 1-0 lead.
Ex-NHL’er Greg Stewart restored parity for the Giants just over a minute later, as he batted his own rebound out of mid air past a helpless John DeCaro in the Steelers goal to make it 1-1 at 3:36.
The Steelers regained the lead once again through Ashley Tait on the powerplay at 8:24 as he managed to slide the puck over the line after a scramble on the goal crease to make it 2-1.
Sheffield were almost three up before the period break as Colin Shields rattled a shot only to be denied by the pipe work of the Belfast goal at 13:34.
Sheffield came out of the gates flying in the second period when a great Cory Pecker pass found Jeff Legue, with the Steelers number 11 making no mistake and firing the puck home at 22:14 making it 3-1.
The Steelers put a bit of daylight between the two teams when Steven Goertzen tapped home from close range on the powerplay to make it 4-1 at 27:30.
A defensive lapse late in the second period gifted the visitors their second of the night as Greg Stewart turned from scorer to provider as he fed Scott Champagne with a neat pass at the back post who then duly netted for the Giants at 35:36.
The third period was just 27 seconds old when Noah Clarke netted his first of the season and the Giants third of the night at 40:27 with a nice finish.
Midway through the third period the Giants tied the game up as Sam Roberts fired home from close range for the visitors to make it 4-4 at 50:25 with a nice top shelf finish.
Both teams pressed looking for the decisive winner, but both goaltenders held firm to stave off any late attacks.
The game went to overtime, with Sheffield out shooting the Giants 3-1, but failing to convert, ensuring that the game would be settled with the ever exciting penalty shootout.
Craig Peacock stepped up at centre ice for the Giants to take the first penalty shot, he skated in and fired low blocker side on DeCaro who turned the shot away with ease.
Former Belfast fan favourite Colin Shields stepped up to the plate, and he duly obliged for the Steelers with a laser of a wristshot, much to the delight of the Steelers faithful.
The pressure was on the Giants, and Scott Champagne was the next up, he skated in on DeCaro and fumbled his shot, much to the dismay of the travelling Giants support.
If Sheffield scored next they would win the shootout. Jeff Legue was given the nod from Steelers Head Coach Ryan Finnerty.
Legue skated in on Murphy and deked him out of his pads, showing good composure to outwait the Great Britain netminder waiting for him to commit before lifting his backhander over the sprawling Scot in the goal, sending the raucous crowd into pandemonium with the hard fought win, and sealing their four point weekend.
Legue offered his thoughts after the game “I think we deserved the win. We dominated the game early on keeping things very simple. We worked hard for our goals and I didn’t think the 4-1 lead flattered us at all,” Legue said.
“I think we were confident in the shoot out. Johnny (DeCaro) played great and didn’t give the Giants shooters any chance at all. When Colin scored I knew I would have a chance to win it. I wanted to finish it there and then. The ice was bad and I didn’t really want to make as many moves as I ended up doing but in the end I got it past Murphy and I guess the rest is history,” Legue concluded.
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