Sheffield Steelers must try and win the Play Offs without their best player Jeff Legue.
More importantly, they need to win it FOR Jeff Legue.
The hugely-influential centreman suffered a broken jaw in a freak incident in Saturday’s 3-2 Play Off quarter final win at Coventry Blaze (first leg.)
He underwent an operation yesterday for an injury caused when he was cross-checked to the ice and then clobbered by a slapshot from his own linemate, Chris Blight.
Coach Gerad Adams said: “It was a horrible injury; you could hear the sound, it was like a smack, and the whole building went quiet. I knew he was in trouble and we all feel bad for him.
“Jeff had been flying around like he has been doing for Sheffield for years and it looked like he was going to have one of his ‘old’ nights.
“He had had a couple of close scoring chances. Then came the Play Off-style cross check and the shot from Chris. Obviously Chris felt terrible. I am not down-playing what happened to Jeff but I was really happy that Chris felt he could carry on.
“Sometimes when things like this happen, teams can go to pieces. Some of our guys did not know the full extent of the injury, but they all knew they had a job to do and showed a determination to succeed” said the coach.
“Hopefully we can now win again in the second leg. Then we can think about trying to win this tournament - and win it for Jeff.”
The Legue incident apart, Sheffield played well and deserved the one goal lead they take into tomorrow. They set off like a train, powering no fewer than 25 shots on home goalie Mike Zacharias, compared to just nine on Frank Doyle.
Overall they outshot Blaze 46-29 and if they had scored on one of their three Power Plays the margin would have been wider.
Despite territorial advantage it was Coventry’s Russell Cowley who scored first at 9.28 on the PP.
But, crucially, just before the first period Jason Hewitt got Steelers back on level terms.
At 25.14 Max Lacroix - who will have such a huge role to play now Legue is out for the season - put Steelers ahead.
Blaze struck back on thehalf way mark with Gerome Giudice converting.
But that blow did no effect Steelers. And Steven Goertzen crowned a real captain’s performance by scoring the winner at 32.08.
Adams said: “There were a lot of positives from the game, Goertzen was tremendous, Hewitt scored such a timely goal and for large parts of the game we outplayed them.”
Legue’s injury sets the scene for a return to action for Tim Spencer.