When the monkey on your back is the size of Sheffield Arena itself, it takes some shifting.
The metaphoric primate was three Steeler losses out of three, at home.
And with 46 minutes gone against Coventry Blaze, it was possible it would remain obstinately pinned to Doug Christiansen’s shoulders.
But the coach can thank his lucky (import) stars for Jeff Legue, for Saturday’s 3-2 win. His brace dragged Steelers back into the game after they’d conceded early to Coventry Blaze. Another skater from Sheffield’s rich history, Ashley Tait, levelled at 2-2 for Blaze, before Steve Goertzen won the Challenge Cup tie in overtime.
Christiansen said: “It wasn’t about the result it was about the performance, the effort, discipline and passion: I thought we had that. We dictated, had a lot of great opportunities and if you keep knocking on the door eventually it will fall in. We showed character after giving up a late goal to come back.” Of Legue, he added: “Jeff is a phenomenal hockey player.”
There were virtuoso displays also from Chad Langlais and Nate DiCasmirro, making their Arena debuts. But all the skaters will have to be on song on Wednesday, when Steelers host Dundee Stars.
“Dundee gave a tremendous skating team, as good a skating team as anyone in the league” said Christiansen.
Tait had signalled his return to Sheffield with a hand in the opening goal. He received a pass from Brian McMillin, cushioning the puck neatly inside into the path of Adam Henrich, who buried it past Frank Doyle (9;03.)
Cale Tanaka and Henrich had other efforts to extend the visitors’ lead and Blaze twice outnumbered Steelers in their own zone. Sheffield’s clearest chance came when Blaze’s Russell Cowley almost directed the puck into his own net.
However, there was promise in the air every time Langlais motored forward from the blue line. DiCasmirro, also impressed. He is slick on the puck and quick for a 35-year-old.
An equaliser looked just around the corner with Steelers piling on the pressure in the middle section. Blaze goalie Mike Zacharias put on a clinic: saving from Legue and Rylan Galiardi twice each.
A 5-on 3 Power Play came and went: was the Arena becoming a graveyard for Sheffield’s winning ambitions? No, answered Legue.
At 46;29, on the PP, he skipped across the blue line, spotted a gap and fired through traffic for 1-1. Ironically, the goal came with Tait in the penalty box.
Four minutes later on a 5-0n-3, Legue connected first-time and again beat Zacharias with power and precision. It was gratifying to see Zacharias beaten - he had viciously slashed Jonathan Phillips to the back of the head as he lay in front of him a moment earlier.
With 94 seconds left Tait rattled in an equaliser - reminding Arena fans, perhaps, what they are missing.
So into overtime we went: and Steve Goertzen stepped forward to perform the captain’s role and slam in the winner.