Match report: Sheffield Steelers 2 Coventry Blaze 4

Simon Ferguson at the heart of a move for Sheffield Steelers.
Simon Ferguson at the heart of a move for Sheffield Steelers.
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COVENTRY ruined Steelers’ New Year festivities by knocking five past them in an unseasonal shocker on January 1.

But that was nothing compared to last night.

They ended Sheffield Steelers play-off season - and possibly took Ryan Finnerty’s coaching job with it. To compound matters, Finnerty had an altercation with the referee at the end and will be banned from tomorrow’s Challenge Cup final second leg clash with Nottingham Panthers.

Shea Guthrie’s hat-trick goal in overtime saw Coventry advance into the Play-Off semi-final at Sheffield’s expense.

A Blaze loss would have drawn the curtain on Paul Thompson’s coaching association with the Midlanders - an unfortunate by-product considering Thompson’s contribution for club and country over the years. But his players were not going to let that happen. They just kept going and going.

The defeat over two legs mean that Blaze go to Nottingham on Saturday while Steelers have to pull themselves out of depression and try and erase a 4-1 Challenge Cup final first leg advantage held by Panthers tomorrow.

Last night, Jason Hewitt almost scored with the game’s first chance.

Then Matt Stephenson thundered the puck into goalie Peter Hirsch’s chest.

But Adam Henrich won a battle with Danny Meyers and set up a goal for Guthrie at 10;03. Guthrie added another on the Power Play after James Jorgensen lost possession, to give the visitors an aggregate lead for the irst time.

Ex-Steeler Derek Campbell blasted another chance wide, the almost unplayable Guthrie outpaced Jorgensen and then hit the underside of the bar; Mike Bayrack also came close to extending the lead. Hewitt and Simon Ferguson opened the middle period by skating into each other.

Blaze were convinced a shot had ripped through Steelers net and should have been awarded. They were further confounded when DeCaro pulled off a spellbinding close-range save.

But Steelers hit back with a Rod Sarich wrist shot from between the circles (4-4, on aggregate.)

That was followed by the goal of the night, Tylor Michel converting a Steve Goertzen cross.

That was the cue for some thrilling attacking play from the home side.

But Blaze scored controversially through Dustin Cameron and it was all square again on aggregate, sending us into overtime.

Drew Fata went off for interference and Guthrie finished off Steelers’ season.

*Steelers’ penalty killers handed Sheffield the advantage in Saturday’s leg.

They kept out Coventry six times, protecting an eventual 3-2 victory. In a game spiced by off-the-puck aggression, Steelers PP specialists struck at 7.28.

And the visitors’ recent big league win at the Skydome looked possibile when Hewitt converted a second at 24.36. But 59 seconds later Henrich got one back.

Michel re-asserted Sheffield’s dominance with a third goal. But with six minutes left Guthrie made it a one goal game.