Sheffield Steelers 6
Coventry Blaze 4
WHEN old boy Tommy Plommer’s shirt was ‘retired’ recently, it’s a fair bet fans thought the number 11 jersey would only ever be seen again hanging from the Arena rafters.
Peculiarly, it hasn’t - and remains wrapped round the similar sized torso of modern day playmaker Jeff Legue. And if Legue continues to play like he did on Saturday...the club may have to double retire the shirt.
Legue scored two spectacular goals, two assists and led the top-line with such distinction that they accounted for all six home goals.
Coach Ryan Finnerty - while having one eye on the non-scoring of the other two lines - praised the formation. Yet he will also be taxing himself about how his team, at 5-2 up, conceded two to deliver an unnecessarily anxious run-in.
“We don’t make it easy for ourselves, we still have a long way to go, but the big plus was the big line” he said, remarking on how quickly they had overcome the (full) retirement of Joey Talbot.
Saturday’s game got off to a luke warm start for Finnerty’s fledglings. While Mike Ramsay displayed pace down the wing and Legue was a Power Play threat on point, Blaze were quicker in transition.
Coventry went ahead when winger Luke Fulghum, icing his 200th Elite game, cycled clear and flipped the puck high past John DeCaro.
Three goals in seven minutes by Sheffield gave the game an entirely different feel, however.
Clark missed a sitter, but his back-board rebound fell to Legue. Blink - and you would have missed the speed of his contact.
Goalie Peter Hirsch certainly did.
Clark drove the net engineering a first goal in club colours for Chad Huttel before Ramsay banged in another.
Coventry chief Paul Thompson ordered a Time Out to address his suddenly leaky team-defence. It seemed to work with Blaze pulling it back to 3-2, Fulghum getting his second. The American was pulling all the strings, especially on the power play.
Yet it was a Canadian who struck again - Legue.
Short-handed, he swept across the slot and fired high past Hirsch at 38;37. An exquisite finish.
The last session was delayed by the inexplicably poor state of the Arena ice, but the wait was worth it.
Clark flashed home a “great goal” (Thompson’s description) from the left flank - and at 5-2, that should have been game set and match.
But two penalties let Blaze back in.
Firts Mark Thomas was sinbinned for slashing and Aaron Nell scored. Then Matt Stephenson buried Bryan Juryneck’s face into the plexi glass at 50mph, earning a 2+10 check to the head call. Owen Fussey cashed in and suddenly it was too close (5-4) for comfort again.
Thankfully an empty net chance arrived at the death for Clark, who grabbed his fifth point of the night.