Dream start to Payette’s reign as Steeldogs boost play-off hopes

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NEW Sheffield Steeldogs coach Andre Payette made a dream start at the helm, leading the club to back-to-back victories over the weekend.

Goals from Janis Ozolins, Edgars Bebris, and Chris Sykes saw the Steeldogs cruise to a deserved 3-0 win over bottom club Telford Tigers at iceSheffield on Saturday. Netminder Ben Bowns scooped the man of the match accolade.

Twenty four hours later, Payette’s side claimed a hard fought 3-2 victory at Peterborough Phantoms in a fast, physical contest. The Steeldogs had a one goal lead into the first break courtesy of Ozolins, and held onto the slim advantage until less than nine minutes from the end of the third period, when Peterborough’s Darius Lelenas, released by the coach Curtis Cruikshank but brought back with the help of a consortium of fans, scored to level the game.

The Sheffield outfit regained their advantage through Sykes before Lelenas tied it up again at two all, with the three third period goals all coming in less than 90 seconds.

Once again the teams went into overtime to decide the winner and Janis Ozolins grabbed the winner just two minutes in, assisted by ex-Phantom Steve Duncombe.

Payette said “I am very happy with the way the players have responded to the change-over and they worked hard to achieve the four points in these two games, especially after only one training session with the team since my appointment.”

Payette, who replaced Matt Darlow last week, recognises there is still more work to be done if the team is to achieve their goal of qualifying for the play-offs.

Back-to-back victories over Telford and Peterborough mean the Steeldogs leapfrog Bracknell and are back into a play-off spot.

They travel to Basingstoke on Saturday before their home encounter with Swindon Wildcats a day later.

Speaking to The Star last week, Darlow said he was “gutted” to be axed.

“It’s embarrassing to be the only coach in the history of this club to have been released,” he said.

The Worksop-based 34-year-old feels player power may have been responsible for his premature departure after owner Shane Smith parted company with his services.

Of Payette, he said: “He is the leader of the team and the obvious choice for the job.”