Sheffield Steeldogs gave a hint of what potential lies in their predominantly home-grown squad by beating the EPL champions Guildford Flames (2-1) and losing by a single goal at Manchester Phoenix (2-3)
Coach Andre Payette said: “I was really happy with the battles our team put last weekend. On Saturday it was great to see a mainly bunch of Sheffield lads beat the League Champions in a quality game of hockey.
“With only two imports, all the Sheffield lads stepped up, which was really good to see as it sets all the pieces in place for a really strong squad of our British guys next season.”
Against Manchester on Sunday, Steve Duncombe took on the biggest player in the league, Robert Schnabel, at 10:27, following a nasty check inflicted on a Steeldogs’ team mate.
Both netminders made some sharp saves, Tony Hand was binned for a 10 minute misconduct after his frustration boiled over. Shortly after Edgars Bebris scored a neat backhander over Andrew Jaszcyk’s shoulder at 19:02, assisted by Lee Haywood to take a 1-0 lead.
Manchester equalised at 21:27 via a Liam Chong rocket into the top corner, assisted by McKinney and Flaten. Within a minute, McKinney had been ejected from the game for kicking and Phoenix found themselves on a 5minute penalty kill.
Steeldogs were unable to make this penalty count and it was Manchester who were fired up, taking the lead at 30:59 after Tony Hand made a great pass to Richard Bentham to go 2-1 up.
Phoenix scored again a minute later for a 3-1 lead as Bari McKenzie deked the defence and then the goalie to slot home at 32:00.
Greg Wood pulled one back for Steeldogs at 35:49, to end a 4 goal second period at 3-2.
Tempers flared again in the third as both teams strove to score but despite more powerplay opportunities for both sides it was the goalies who earned their MOM awards with some great saves, Dalibor Sedlar in particular who made the save of the night with five minutes
left. Hand received a penalty for delay of the game at 57:03, but despite pulling Sedlar for a 6- n 4 man advantage, Steeldogs could not find a way past Jaszcyk for an equaliser and the game ended with a 3-2 win for Manchester.