SHEFFIELD Steelers held their nerve and shut Coventry Blaze out of the game yesterday, playing a smart road match to get a 4-1 win.
Sheffield got off to the best possible start as Ryan Finnerty and Jonathan Phillips hunted down possession on the boards in the Blaze zone.
The Steelers swiftly moved the puck to the net and Blaze goalie Peter Hirsch shot out to try and claim it. Instead he presented returning old boy Luke Fulghum with a gaping net and an age to continue his habit of scoring against Coventry in every game since his release.
Things didn’t improve much for Blaze as a powerplay ended and Steelers sped down to the Coventry end. The puck was moved across the net and Hirsch, over-balancing, was unable to stop a Mike Ramsay shot going over his shoulder.
And by the tenth minute Coventry coach Paul Thompson was forced to call an early time-out as the visitors went 3-0 up. Jonathan Phillips was credited with the goal as the puck was played from the side of the net – it looked as if Matic Krajl swept it in from the floor as he tried to clear it.
Coventry immediately managed a couple of breaks down the middle, but Hirsch was pressed into action again as he combined with Jerramie Domish to break up another sweeping Steelers move.
Blaze looked more purposeful in the second period, but couldn’t take the opportunities or shoot as cleanly as Sheffield, who put in a more muscular and convincing display all night. Dustin Wood alone got three good chances on a powerplay, but the crowd were getting the feeling they were playing the referee as players were hoiked down without a call being made by Dean Smith,
They, and the Blaze bench were still protesting a non-call after Domish was rammed into the boards when Steelers skated in and Ramsay got his second with a shot that Hirsch should have stopped.
But then a switch was flicked and Blaze suddenly grabbed the momentum. Domish skated into the Sheffield zone, finding space to fire off a shot and Bryan Jurynec tapped home the rebound.
Coventry outshot Sheffield heavily on the night, but were robbed of good scoring chances in the final period as the Steelers shut the game down.
Passes went astray, hitting skates and being misdirected as Sheffield broke up the play, and John DeCaro was rarely threatened, despite a succession of minor calls forcing Steelers on the powerplay for much of the third period.