Gord Baldwin believes Sheffield Steelers’ fitness levels are a significant factor in maintaining their top of the league status.
Baldwin, who scored two assists last night in a 4-3 win at Hull Stingrays, has seen his side score several late goals lately - an indicator of impressive conditioning within the squad. In Saturday’s 5-2 win over the same opposition, Sheffield scored twice in the last two minutes.
Scoring late was a one of the tools of their trade, he said. “It doesn’t matter if its the first minute or the 59th minute. But everybody knows the importance of conditioning and know what kind of difference it can make” says the d-man.
“We practice hard and prepare professionally and try to give ourselves an advantage over everybody else.”
Last night, Steelers chalked up their sixth straight win to remain top of the pile. They had gone 3-0, let is slip to 3-2 and then traded goals at a squeaky tight finish.
Baldwin’s shot rebounded for Colton Fretter to open the scoring at 7;01. Six minutes later Rob Dowd’s effort fell to Mathieu Roy who converted. And at 26;31 Sheffield were coasting at 3-0 when Dowd scored from an obscure angle.
But a power play Omar Pacha goal followed by another Stingrays strike from Eic Galbraith reduced the gap to one goal.
The match-winer came after Baldwin helped manufacture a chance close in for Roy - and he rarely misses. Carl Lauzcon got one back for Hull.
On Saturday, a 5-2 scoreline flattered Steelers; they did not put Hull to bed until Phil Hill scored at 59;07 to put a two goal gap between the sides...an advantage they had previously thrown away.
Hull had carved out some dangerous moves in the opening minutes, Jordan Knox was a powerhouse in the neutral zone, Zach Hervato and Jordan Mayer creating chances around the slot. But Michael Forney buried a rebound to put the Arena side 1-0 up at 11;26.
Four minutes later Hill skated across the top of the crease, found Danny Bois in space and he doubled the advantage.
Hull were in trouble. But on a 28th minute Power Play, they skated route-one through Steelers’ middle. It wasn’t speed which created the goal either - Matthew Davies seemed to take an age to get it up the ice and Cory Tanaka had far too much time to plant home the puck. Then Darrell Hay was caught on the left on a Steelers’ power play and Tanaka equalised at 2-2.
Ben O’Connor then lost the puck on the flank, but Doyle rescued him by saving Hervato’s effort.
Sheffield regained the lead when Tyler Mosienko’s beautifully executed wrist-shot went in, via a Jonathan Phillips’ deflection.
It merely prompted extra effort from Hull, who frequently got through to Doyle, but just couldn’t get past him.
It was then that Hill made the points safe for Sheffield and Bois added an empty netter, securing him man of the match status.
* Hockey lovers in Sheffield have organised a fund-raising game for Sheffield Children’s Hospital and Firvale food bank, at iceSheffield, on Sunday, December 28th December, 9.30pm. A team of Santas is playing a team of elves. Organisers have set an entry fee of five tins of food for the food bank.