Rob Dowd never ceases to amaze. For a player to do the unexpected so often - well, it’s almost expected of him now.
After a gruelling 60 minutes the game went into overtime and Dowd found himself in a one-on-one race with Coventry Blaze forward Cale Tanaka.
The Canadian had looked the fastest player on ice all night, and the best skater, too. Yet when it came to the crunch the Teesider left Tanaka in his wake, finding the ingenuity as well as the energy to beat Mike Zacharias. It was the 5-4 game-winner.
And it rivalled the other ‘moment of the match’ when Jeff Legue sprayed an NHL quality pass to Gord Baldwin to score an easy goal, taking the game into overtime. Two remarkable moments in a match which at times posed more questions about Steelers’ defensive play and concentration.
Two similar Power Play goals had put Coventry into the driving seat. On the first power play, with Dowd in the box, Kenny Kallstrom lashed low past Doyle from left point. Dustin Kohn, returning from his three-game suspension was binned for high sticks and Michael Devin fired low again past Doyle, at 7;49. Steelers’ defensive structure imploded again when Doyle was caught in two minds as he tried to clear the puck. He didn’t and Shea Guthrie made it 0-3 at 8.20.
The home side’s plays seemed random and unconvincing and there were few hits or telling passes. Individual errors were common-place.
But Blaze’s strong arm tactics blew up in their face when Mike Egener and Michael Henrich were penalised for assaults on Legue and Jason Hewitt.
Baldwin whacked in Steelers’ first on the 5-on-3 Power Play and that was followed by a Steve Goertzen individual goal, We had to wait until 44.23 before Tim Spencer, on the powerplay, tied it at 3-3.
Yet still Steelers wobbled at the back and Adam Henrich nosed visitors back in front at 46.38. However, Legus passing vision set up Baldwin’s second 56.37, setting up the grandstand finish for Dowd in overtime.
Coach Doug Christiansen said: “Dowd’s goal was huge. We needed someone to step up - he did that. When he’s been healthy this season he has been pretty darned good. Not only is he good offensively, he’s good in other areas. He competes every shift and elevates the level of his team-mates. Baldwin has been a big part of our Power Play clicking too.”
“He started the year on the Power Play, went off it for a bit, and earned his way back on.
“Now he is not only contributing with assists but with goals too. He is playing his best hockey right now. A lot of guys started a little bit slow but now he is playing in the way we think he can and at a level that transforms us as a hockey club. He makes our transition and power play better.”
Christiansen said Legue’s feed to Baldwin was “world class.”