Ice Hockey: Just champion

The players, backroom staff and families celebrate the 2010/11 league tittle
The players, backroom staff and families celebrate the 2010/11 league tittle
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AFTER a season’s break from winning silverware, the League title is back where it belongs, at Sheffield Arena.

And now Steelers’ mission is to replicate 2008-9 double-winning achievement, adding the Play Off trophy to the championship title.

Last night, the 2010-11 champions tore fifth-placed Braehead apart with a exhibition of ruthlessly punishing speed and offensive firepower. Five of the goals came from defencemen.

With more than 6,000 in the rink, it was like old times.

This League title represents an incredible personal success story for player-coach Ben Simon, although he’s the last person who would wish the limelight to fall upon him.

When then-owner Bob Phillips recruited him last Summer, Simon joined a club caught in the eye of a storm.

The club’s operating company had gone bust owing money to staff and business partners.

Players who had signed up to play for another coach, Dave Matsos, had seen Matsos quit, along with the rest of middle management.

The highly-organised Simon came in gelled the team together, shielded them from the ups and downs of Phillips’ financially-failing regime before the club was sold to Paul Ragan.

He also played like a demon for most of the time - an unselfish winger/centreman who plays unselfish hockey and hits like a train.

With the league done and dusted, only time will tell whether he will overcome the apparent stumbling block of personal financial terms for next season.

Last night, Steelers flooded over Clan’s blueline with an early series of neatly orchestrated attacks. Neil Clark thought he’d scored in one sweeping raid at 5;12 but the puck hadn’t crossed the line.

A minute later Rod Sarich blasted a point shot straight through Canadian goaltender JF Perras.

Clan had few chances of their own, but they were presented with a similar opportunity to Sarich’s, Cody Bostock’s hammer shot being blocked, though, by Ervins Mustukovs.

With Rob Dowd delivering a decent hit on Kyle Bruce and Jerramie Domish tidying up the offensive zone, Sheffield deserved another.

It arrived at 16;55, Joey Talbot flashing down the right flank and setting up Jeff Legue for his 40th strike of the season.

A dominating middle session saw Clan penned in their own half and forced into errors by the speed and effectiveness of Sheffield’s offence.

Dowd’s sparkle around the net led to a chance for Domish, who buried the puck. In the next shift, Neil Clark roofed the puck with the away defence rooted to the spot.

Then, while short-handed, Steelers exposed further weaknesses in Clan’s rearguard, Sarich getting his second of the night.

And when Steve Munn arrived late down the right flank to make it 6-0, the party began.

With fans doing the conga around the rink at the start of the last session, it was understandable if their team’s intensity dropped.

Adam Walker and Jordan Krestanovich scored two for the Scots. But another strike for Munn ended any notion of a comeback.

On Saturday, Steelers went on a second period rampage, scoring four unanswered goals.

Legue, Talbot Clark and Ashley Tait put the game out of Clan’s reach, coming after Jonathan Phillips’ earlier strike.

Steelers conserved energy in the third period, with Bobby Chaumont denying Mustukovs his 11th shut out this season.