Sheffield Steelers ......6
STEELERS’ owner Tony Smith welcomed a winning weekend which keeps alive fans’ hopes of a league and cup double.
Lat night, Smith’s team cantered to a win at iceSheffield against a depleted Edinburgh side, 24 hours after a Challenge Cup victory in East Yorkshire.
Smith said: “I am pleased with the performances right now. They are working harder and the presence of another import (RG Flath, competing for a full time spot) is keeping players on their toes.”
Smith also paid tribute to bottom club Fife Flyers, who held Nottingham Panthers to a 2-2 tie last night before losing in a shoot out. “That was a great achievement for them,” he said.
Second placed Steelers have four games in hand on leaders Belfast Giants, but had needed to make sure that they polished off a Capitals side, third from bottom and spanked 3-8 at home the previous night by Coventry Blaze.
With Nathan Craze unavailable in Caps’ goal, Steelers opted to fire as many shots on replacement Craig Holland as possible. The shots came from every angle and brought the best out of the 6ft 2in Scottish netminder.
He had a share of early good fortune too, with Jason Hewitt and Lee Esders shooting high and wide from close in.
There wasn’t much Holland could do about the opening goal, Jeff Legue walking into his crease and back-handing low over the line.
Legue was at his impish best. On one occasion he smashed the puck off the inside of the post, recovered possession and fired a second shot inches wide of the far post.
Flath and Ryan Finnerty combined to set up Esders to make it 2-0 at 14;56.
Capitals are a businesslike, well-drilled side and reduced the arrears just before the first interval, Rene Jarolin left handing across John DeCaro’s defences from the right circle.
The middle session was only three minutes old when Tom Squires cut in from the right of Holland’s crease and squeezed the puck in for 3-1.
With Capitals having only 11 skaters at their disposal, they had all on to defy wave after wave of attacks, many of them enamating from Legue, but frequently featuring defencemen like Matt Stephenson and Steve Birnstill.
Legue had three chances to add to his tally before finally chalking up number four at 34;11.
That was followed by a left point slapshot from Rod Sarich for a fifth, at 39:40 as the floodgates started to open.
With Sheffield 5-1 up, Finnerty took the decision during the second interval to ice back up netminder Geoff Woolhouse for the remainder of the one-sided encounter.
The period gave Woolhouse some much-needed practice and he pulled out some decent saves from 10 shots.
But it was his opposite number, Holland, who was sweating the most; he stopped a full-blooded Hewitt drive on his chest, glove-saved from Tom Squires and foiled a breakaway from Colt King.
He was beaten from close range when Legue and Tait set up linemate Neil Clark for the sixth.
But in all, he turned back 19 shots in that final session.
Even with a healthy five-goal lead, player coach Finnerty ensured his players kept on snapping and snarling – leading by example (sort of) by delivering an elbow into the side of Jarolin.
Clark snapped his goal drought with a decisive couple on Saturday to give Sheffield a fighting chance of reaching the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup.
Steelers are third in their cup group, but have games in hand over Nottingham and Cardiff Devils.
Hull hit the net first through Jack Watkins.Clark levelled before a Colt King power goal from King at 34.09 gave Sheffield the edge.
While Sylvain Clouiter equalised at 55.21 Clark’s second with 10 seconds left handed Steelers the win.