SHEFFIELD, U.K. – The Sheffield Steelers recorded there first four-pointweekend of the season with two thrilling wins over Midlands outfit the Coventry Blaze. Paul Thompson iced a depleted Coventry side that were without the injured duo of Russ Cowley and Jerramie Domish, but they were to also lose Gerome Giudice in the game with a groin injury.
The visiting Blaze got on the scoresheet first thanks to Dustin Cameron who fired high over the glove of John DeCaro in the Steelers goal, to make it 1-0 on the powerplay at 1:44.
Less than two minutes later, the hosts were soon back on level terms with Ashley Tait firing home from close range after a Tylor Michel rebound shot on the powerplay at 3:12.
The Steelers then took the lead for the first time in the game just 37 seconds after Tait’s equaliser, this time it was Shawn Limpright taking the plaudits with another close range finish on the powerplay to make it 2-1.
Once again it was the special teams that proved vital in the game as the Blaze restored parity on the powerplay with defenceman Mike Schutte firing a wrist shot past DeCaro, a goal in which the Steelers shot stopper would want back, making it 2-2 at 7:06.
Midway through the first period, the Steelers Drew Fata and the Blaze’s Gerome Giudice dropped the gloves centre ice, after an earlier incident where Fata slashed Giudice with the Coventry player making a meal of it.
The pair then settled their differences with Fata, dominating the fight, and giving Giudice food for thought about his antics.
The fight galvanised the Steelers into action as they hit two unanswered goals before the period break courtesy of Tylor Michel and Steelers captain Jonathan Phillips making it 4-2.
The Blaze were first off the mark in the second period with ex-Nhl’er Brad Leeb firing a wristshot from the right wing past DeCaro, to bring the game to within a goal at 26:02, after a nice pass from Mike Schutte.
Newly installed Blaze Captain Shea Guthrie pulled his team level midway through the game, as he netted a close range effort after a defensive scramble to make it 4-4 at 30:01.
Sheffield were then gifted a powerplay as Dustin Cameron sat for roughing. On the ensuing man advantage James Jorgensen rifled home a powerful slapshot from the point to give the Steelers a slender 5-4 lead at 30:36.
Soon after the second period break the Steelers hit their sixth goal courtesy of a fine solo effort from Tylor Michel. The former Cardiff Devil went end to end and made a nice move on Peter Hirsch to make it 6-4 to the Steelers at 43:05.
The visitors soon replied with their fifth of the night, once again through influential Captain Shea Guthrie who fired top shelf past DeCaro at 47:04.
The goal would ensure a nervy ten minutes for both teams, but it was Sheffield who were to get the final goal, with Tylor Michel netting his hat trick marker after a lucky bounce of Peter Hirsch’s skate to make it 7-5 at 58:11. Michel would then go on to be named ‘First Star’ of the game for his magnificent performance.
Tempers frayed in the final minute with Blaze heavyweight Benn Olson on a headhunting mission. He targeted the Steelers’ Shawn Limpright who was determined not be pushed around with the pair exchanging slashes before Olson hit the ice with a dive that Tom Daley would have been proud of.
Olson was assessed a double minor penalty for slashing, with Limpright receiving a sterner game misconduct for his slash on the Blaze pugilist.
The remaining four seconds ticked away ensuring that the Steelers took the first of the two points on offering.
The same two teams met at the Skydome Arena in Coventry 24-hours later, with the Steelers once again claiming the two points after a 4-3 overtime win.
The Steelers were without forward Cory Pecker who picked up a groin injury in Saturdays win.
The Blaze were soon off the mark with Brad Leeb firing high past John Decaro after a defensive lapse from the Steelers, gifting the Blaze the opening goal at 3:51.
The Steelers were handed their fist powerplay of the game which they took full advantage of as Ashley Tait restored parity with a carbon copy of the Blaze goal just minutes earlier to make it 1-1 at 10:02.
The Blaze pressed and soon regained the lead with a powerplay marker of their own courtesy of imposing defenceman Mike Schutte with his second of the weekend at 15:43, making it 2-1 to the hosts.
The Steelers pressed and soon tied the game up thanks to Ex Boston Bruin Drew Fata who rifled home a slapshot on the powerplay with just 36 seconds of the first period remaining making it 2-2.
Like the previous night, this game was a penalty littered affair once again, as special teams were to prove vital, with Sheffield soon to convert with their sixth powerplay goal in eight attempts.
Steelers veteran Jeff Legue who has had a slow start to the season got the monkey off his back as he netted his first of the season on the powerplay at 23:56 with a trademark slapshot making it 3-2.
The Blaze were determined to fight back and did just that late in the second period, with NIHL Blaze player Dale White who was called up to the team just 24 hours earlier due to injuries, netted his first in Blaze colours as he tapped home from close range after a rebound was left for him at 36:27.
Both teams came out battling in the third period, but thanks to some great goaltending from the Blaze’s Peter Hirsch and the Steelers’ John DeCaro they kept the opposition at bay ensuring the game would need to be settled in extra time.
The game like the previous night had an undercurrent of hostility, and the gloves were off once again as Shea Guthrie and Matt Selby of the Blaze and Lee Esders and Rod Sarich of Sheffield paired up in short but spirited bouts, with all four men sitting for five minute fighting majors at 54:22.
The near capacity crowd in the Skydome Arena was raucous as overtime beckoned, and both teams exchanged efforts.
At 61:57 the game was settled as Colin Shields rattled home a blistering wristshot from the high slot to send the travelling fans and players into delirium, ensuring they wrapped up a well deserved four point weekend.
Steelers Head Coach Ryan Finnerty offered his thoughts from the weekend, “We dug in, and we played well. We held the Blaze to limited chances early on. |
Our powerplay was outstanding I think we were six for 10 over the weekend,” Finnerty said.
“When we lost Legue we lacked a light spark but the guys just kept working.
These are four big points and we carry some momentum,” Finnerty added.
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