SHEFFIELD, U.K. – The Sheffield Steelers set themselves up nicely for a crucial grudge match against the Nottingham Panthers this Friday (22nd February) after two impressive wins on home ice over the weekend.
The Steelers firstly took on the Fife Flyers at the Motorpoint Arena on Saturday (16th February) and came away with an impressive 3-0 win in a one-sided, dominant performance.
The Steelers started off strongly and tested back up netminder Blair Daly early on within the first minute of the game. The 24-year-old Scot is deputising for injured starting netminder Bryan Pitton.
The Steelers opened the scoring at 07:36 courtesy of former Nottingham Panther Scott Champagne who’s wristshot from the left wing beat Blair Daly 5-hole to make it 1-0.
The hosts almost doubled their lead moments later as Steven Goertzen fired wide with a 2-on-1 chance with Jonathan Phillips, signalling the Steelers intent for the evening.
The Steelers pressed and were dominating early in the period, well and truly putting the visitors on the back foot.
The hosts soon doubled their lead at 13:06 when Steven Goertzen re-directed a Chris Frank slapshot from the point low past Blair Daly to make it 2-0.
Fife came agonisingly close with a chance of their own, with Player/Coach Todd Dutiaume striking the crossbar from close range, much to the frustration of the large contingent of Fife fans, who were vocal and in good spirits all game long.
The Steelers came out strong for the second period once again, and came close at 24:15 with Jeff Legue forcing a good save from Blair Daly in a goalmouth scramble.
The Steelers netted their third and final goal of the game at 28:10 when Lee Esders dived and slotted home a loose puck from close range whilst lying on the ice to make it 3-0.
At 34:15 the visitors thought they had scored when Todd Dutiaume struck the post after a rebounded shot came out to him, and John DeCaro was out of position and the Flyers Player/Coach failed to slot the puck into the empty net.
The third period was more evenly contested from both teams, than the previous two periods.
Visiting netminder Blair Daly continued to impress with a string of fine saves, much to the disbelief of the Arena crowd, after the deputising netminder’s heroics.
The game turned physical in the third period after Steelers agitator Tylor Michel took exception to a high hit from Derek Keller, as the Flyers defenceman elbowed Michel.
The pair exchanged pleasantries before dropping the gloves, with the Flyers man taking the honours in a short and spirited bout.
Both teams exchanged chances in the final ten minutes of the third period, but were kept at bay by some great netminding courtesy of Daly and DeCaro.
The clock ticked away and the buzzer sounded ensuring the Steelers took the two points and their sixth straight win.
The win for the Steelers ensured that it was the Flyers eighth loss in a row away from home, and the fourth time they have been shutout on the road.
The Steelers returned to home ice once again 24-hours later, this time to take on local rivals the Hull Stingrays.
The Stingrays came into the game full of confidence after an impressive win over the Cardiff Devils from the previous night.
The game signalled the return of former Steeler Danny Wood, who was deemed surplus to requirements earlier in the season by Head Coach Ryan Finnerty.
The Sheffield born youngster thrived on the increase in ice time, and was one of the shining stars for the Rays’ in an otherwise poor team performance.
The Steelers were soon on the scoresheet courtesy of feisty forward Shawn Limpright as he beat Ben Bowns with a wristshot from the right wing hash marks at 03:12.
The game turned feisty at 9:05 when Steven Goertzen lined up a hit in front of the Steelers bench on Rays’ Captain Kurtis Dulle, with the Stingray ducking out of the hit in the last second, causing Goertzen to go hurtling over the top of him into the bench awkwardly.
Goertzen wasn’t happy with Dulle for the cowardly act, which could have resulted in serious injury on another night.
Goertzen then slashed Dulle for his troubles and was assessed a 2-minute minor penalty by Referee Rab Cowan.
At 12:35 the Steelers doubled their lead as Shawn Limpright re-directed a Steve Goertzen shot from the blueline low past Rotherham-born Rays’ netminder Ben Bowns to make it 2-0.
The Steelers came close again in the 15th minute when Steve Goertzen struck the post with a nice backhand effort.
Both teams came out for a more evenly contested middle stanza, one in which Sheffield out shot Hull 9-6.
At 27:03 the game turned physical once again when Rays’ defenceman Martin Ondrej elbowed Steelers forward Scott Champagne with a hit on the boards. The hit ruffled a few feathers with the Steelers players, and drew a crowd on the ice, with players from both sides pushing and shoving.
The Steelers added a third goal when the impressive Simon Ferguson one timed a slapshot from the slot high past Ben Bowns blocker side, after a nice pass from Scott Champagne in the corner to make it 3-0 at 28:02 on the powerplay.
At 29:13 the Rays’ tough guy Ryan Hand and Steelers rugged defenceman Chris Frank renewed their acquaintances, with the pair both being assessed two minutes for roughing and two minutes for delay of the game each, after Hand tried to coax Frank into dropping the gloves.
The Steelers pressed and almost added a fourth shorthanded when Jason Hewitt forced a good save from fellow Great Britain international Ben Bowns in the Stingrays goal.
Jason Silverthorn came close to netting for the visitors when he was gifted a breakaway chance, but he mishandled the puck before he could release his shot in the final minute of the second period.
Both teams came out firing in the third period, with Stingrays top scorer Jereme Tendler testing John DeCaro with a powerplay chance, forcing the Steelers netminder to make a great glove save at 46:20.
The Steelers then started to control the latter stages of the period with Simon Ferguson being denied by Bowns on two separate occasions.
The game was all but done when Shawn Limpright netted his hattrick goal in spectacular fashion. With just 25 seconds remaining the Steelers forward broke down the left wing and cut inside the Rays’ defenceman with a breathtaking move, and then backhanded the puck top shelf past Bowns sending his water bottle flying and leaving the Arena crowd aghast after the sublime goal.
The clock ticked away ensuring the Steelers collected the all-important two points with their 4-0 victory, and Steelers’ netminder John DeCaro’s fourth shutout of the season.
The Steelers next face a tough 3 game road trip at the weekend, which could make or break their season. The Steelers firstly take on the Nottingham Panthers on Friday night (22nd February) then the Belfast Giants on the Saturday, and finally the Dundee Stars on the Sunday.
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