Steelers endure disappointing weekend

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Steelers Assistant Coach Marc LeFebvre takes charge over the weekend (Image courtesy of Dean Woolley)

SHEFFIELD, U.K. – The Sheffield Steelers three-game winning streak came to an end on Saturday after a disappointing home loss to Scottish outfit the Fife Flyers. The Steelers then traveled to the Midlands on Sunday but endured an overtime loss to the Coventry Blaze too.

Steelers Assistant Coach Marc LeFebvre was handed the reins for the weekend as Head Coach Doug Christiansen was back in the States after the sad passing of his father.

The Steelers played host to the Flyers at Ice Sheffield on Saturday evening, a venue which seems to be the Achilles heel of the team, with losses in the past to Edinburgh, Hull and Dundee there.

The hosts were without Captain Steven Goertzen, who missed the game with a foot injury, but were boosted by the return of Danny Meyers after recovering from a groin injury.

The Flyers got off to the perfect start when Jordan Fulton fired them ahead after a 2-on-1 play after a nice feed from Matt Reber at 2:50 to give his team a deserved 1-0 lead.

The Steelers pressed and almost leveled at 6:30 when former NHL’er Stefan Meyer found himself on a breakaway, only to be denied by a great leg pad save from the impressive Kevin Regan in the Flyers goal.

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Steelers tough guy Tim Spencer drops the gloves with Flyer Matt Nickerson (Image courtesy of Dean Woolley)

The South Yorkshire side came close once again in the twelfth minute after a good forecheck on the penalty kill from Rob Dowd forced a turnover with Jeff Legue picking up the loose puck and forcing Regan into making another good save.

The visitors doubled their advantage after a Steelers defensive blunder at 14:23 with Bobby Chaumont skating in on a breakaway and backhanding the puck past a sprawling Frank Doyle in the Steelers goal to make it 2-0.

At 2-0 down the Steelers needed a boost and they got just that when enforcer Tim Spencer invited his Flyers counterpart Matt Nickerson to drop the gloves. Nickerson duly obliged with both men landing some good blows, with the Steelers pugilist taking the honours in a spirited bout at 15:59.

The fight had the desired effect with the Steelers finishing the period strongly, but still not able to find a way past Flyers netminder Regan.

The Steelers came out of the gates strongly in the second period and pulled a goal back courtesy of Great Britain international Robert Dowd, who fired a one-timer low past Regan from the left wing slot after a good pass from Stefan Meyer at 24:17 on the powerplay.

Sheffield’s celebrations were short lived as Bobby Chaumont was on hand to fire home a rebound after an initial Rok Pajic shot came out to him. Chaumont made no mistake and restored his team’s 2-goal cushion at 24:54 making it 3-1, much to the delight of the great travelling support from the Flyers fans.

No further scoring followed in the second period, despite some good chances from both sides. The Steelers looked flat and frail defensively, with the Flyers taking advantage, and were relentless on the forecheck, outplaying the Steelers for most of the game.

Fife came out for the final period strong, and were determined to see out the game, and shut the Steelers down with relative ease.

Chaumont came close to completing his hat trick at 45:44 when he forced a good save from Steelers netminder Frank Doyle on a 5-on-3 powerplay.

The Steelers pressed and pulled a goal back at 53:57 when Jeff Legue found Jonathan Phillips at the back post with a great pass, with the Great Britain international re-directing the puck sublimely past Regan.

The goal proved to be nothing more than a commiseration effort as the Flyers killed the game off and took the well-deserved victory after a great road performance.

Sheffield then traveled to Coventry 24 hours later to take on East Midlands outfit the Coventry Blaze. The Steelers played a lot better than the previous night, and were somewhat unlucky to come home with just a point after a 3-2 overtime loss.

The visitors threatened early on with Rob Sirianni forcing Blaze netminder Mike Zacharias into making a good save in the first minute with a strong wrist shot.

The Blaze pressed and soon offered chances of their own, with speedy forward Cale Tanaka testing Frank Doyle in the third minute.

Sheffield came close once again at 10:20 when Chad Langlais struck the post with a slapshot from the blue line.

Despite both teams sharing chances, no one could find the back of the net in an evenly contested opening period.

The hosts came out strong for the middle stanza with Gerome Giudice coming close after a goalmouth scramble at 24:54.

It wasn’t until the 36th minute that the deadlock was broken. Returning Blaze player Gerome Giudice was perfectly placed in the slot to fire home a rebound after an initial Adam Henrich shot came out to him, and he fired high past Doyle blocker side to make it 1-0.

The visitors were determined to claw their way back into the game and almost did that when Stefan Meyer was denied 35 seconds into the final period after a great Mike Zacharias save.

Meyer’s perseverance paid off as he netted the equaliser for the Steelers at 47:35 with a well taken wrist shot that beat Zacharias 5-hole to make it 1-1.

At 48:38 the game turned physical when Steeler Rob Dowd and Blaze forward Cale Tanaka were in a foot race for a loose puck, with the two attempting to check each other with Tanaka coming off worse, and falling awkwardly into the boards.

The Blaze fans were up in arms and were rather ludicrously calling for checking from behind penalties and Dowd to be ejected from the game. Referee Mike Hicks deemed the play to be OK and no penalty was issued.

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Steelers forward Rob Dowd was one of the only bright spots from a disappointing weekend (Image courtesy of Dean Woolley)

At 51:01 the Steelers were gifted a 5-on-3 powerplay opportunity, but they failed to muster any shots of conviction and not capitalising on the advantage.

The hosts regained the lead at 53:47 courtesy of former Steeler Ashley Tait who one-timed low past Doyle to make it 2-1 sending the vociferous Blaze crowd into raptures.

With just 137 seconds of the game remaining, Steelers tough guy Tim Spencer restored parity when his wrist shot from the right wing trickled past Zacharias to make it 2-2.

The clock ticked away ensuring the game would need to be settled by a rather nervy but exciting spectacle of overtime.

Less than a minute into overtime and Steelers forward Rob Sirianni found his shot blocked by the legs of Blaze top scorer Ryan Ginand, who then picked up the loose puck and skated down the left wing and fired a well taken wrist shot low past Frank Doyle to give his side the 3-2 win.

Steelers Assistant Coach Marc LeFebvre spoke after the game.

“We fell a little short tonight. If we played with the effort we did tonight last night we would have won the game against Fife. Coventry are a very good team though.”

“I can’t fault the effort; we came to play tonight and we fought hard and found away to come back twice, and we got a point, but we can’t afford to drop any more points,” LeFebvre added.

The Steelers have a tough week as they host the Blaze on Thursday evening (31st October), before travelling to Fife on the Saturday and then returning to the Motorpoint Arena 24-hours-later to host the Braehead Clan.

Contact the author at Scott.antcliffe@prohockeynews.com

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