Challenge Cup: Sheffield Steelers 6 Manchester Storm 4
Steelers hopes of landing the Challenge Cup for the first time in 13 years overcame a bump in the road on Sunday night.
They came back from two down in their first domestic game of the season - and then squandered a 4-2 lead before a Tyler Mosienko hat-trick edged the tie, his last goal coming with just 10 seconds remaining.
Sheffield were relieved with the 6-4 result. “A win is a win” said coach Paul Thompson.
Some visiting fans booed their former player Davey Phillips - then watched him dispense a solid check on the boards to take Jack Prince out, early on.
It was Manchester who took the lead, out-working Sheffield’s third-line and scoring through Cody Cartier at 6;41.
A bizarre decision by Ervins Mustukovs gifted Storm a second at 9;01. A big bounce off the boards saw the puck spring back at the goalie...he jumped out of the way to stop it bouncing off him only to leave an open net for Mark Heatley to make it 0-2.
Storm goalie Mike Clemente’s blocker had kept out Andreas Valdix, but the American netminder was beaten by a full-blooded one-timer from Mathieu Roy from the left circle (10;41.)
Zack Fitzgerald, unhappy about Patrik Valcak’s treatment of Ben O’Connor, offered the Czech winger out for a scrap which he declined but was later in a battle with Mike Ratchuk.
Fitzgerald confronted the officials at the first break and was so enraged he smashed a stick on the wall outside the press room, sending a shattered piece flying across the room.
Tempers were to ease considerably with a 3-0 middle period success for Steelers, who were without back-injury victim Anders Franzon.
Levi Nelson drew a penalty and Roy equalised with his second of the night, from close range at 23:11.
Some beautiful passing moves secured a brace more goals, Jesse Schultz threaded Tyler Mosienko threw to finish expertly, and then marauding Ratchuk smashed a shot against the post, which was then prodded home by Mosienko for his brace.
Storm called a time out but failed to execute on their best chance a five on three power play. With Manchester having had little of the pre-season games and training camp enjoyed by Sheffield, it seemed odds on that they would run out of steam in the third period.
Yet they continued to battle and scrap for everything. A big rebound off Mustukovs pads was buried by Mario Trabucco and Storm were back on level terms through Matt Bissonnette at 4-4 (55;12.)
Nelson though is a forward you can never take your eye off and he stroked in Steelers fifth.
Mosienko staked his hat-trick with an empty netter to ensure victory.
*On Saturday, in a peculiarly timed friendly against the same opposition, in Altrincham, Steelers handed goaltending duties to Brad Day and defensive duties - for the first time in his life - to young Cole Shudra.
Coach Paul Thompson rested Franzon, Roy, Nelson, Rod Sarich and Ratchuk - and it took its toll in a 2-5 reverse - all goals coming in the first 22 minutes.
Both Steeler strikes came from defencemen, O’Connor - the opener at 2;14, and a rare marker from Fitzgerald, who scored with his side 4-1 down.