Sheffield Steelers' huge injury blow after 5-1 Kazakh defeat
Coach Paul Thompson was left counting the cost of a 5-1 defeat in their first match in the Continental Cup finals at the Chizhovka Arena in Minsk, Belarus.
Star shooter and top points scorer Robert Dowd suffered a suspected medial collateral ligament knee injury after being flattened in an incident which saw the Nomad Astana aggressor thrown out.
His contribution over the next few weeks - let alone the rest of this tournament - is now under question.
Miika Franssila also picked up an injury, which will weaken the defence if he is also on the sidelines.
Thompson was frustrated not just by the result, but by the lack of precision in front of goal when chancesd came their way in the first 40 minutes and an unispiring third period when they needed inspiration the most.
He felt his team had been also underperformed on the power play and penalty kill.
Thompson admitted Astana, a young franchise with an average player age five years junior to Steelers, had been “quicker than us” and more adept at taking their opportunities.
“We had two breakaways and three chances in the slot” he said, adding that the wastefulness led to them “getting what they deserved.”
He added: “They buried their chances and it is disappointing we didn’t and that’s how you get punished at this level. We got what we deserved.”
Eric Neiley scored a consolation, his first for the club in his third game as a Steeler, at 54;54.
Astana, the reigning Kazakhstan League champions who supply prospects to Barys Astana of the Kontinental Hockey League, took each period, 1-0, 2-0, 3-1.
Steelers now face have a Saturday night appointment against host side Yunost Minsk at the same venue.
Minsk beat Ritten Sport of Italy 2-1 in the first round robin game on Friday afternoon, watched by 3,120 spectators.
Minsk were two up after 10 minutes from Mikhail Plotnikov and Alexander Karakulko.
They remain favourites.