Weekend wrap up: Coventry Blaze 3-4 Sheffield Steelers (OT)
Sheffield shaved two points off Cardiff Devils' advantage at the top of the table with a high-octane overtime win in the Midlands.
Steelers and Coventry Blaze were deadlocked at 3-3, after Ben O’Connor levelled with less than three minutes left of regulation time.
But Andreas Valdix won the tie to ensure Sheffield are now five points behind the Welsh division leaders with a single game in hand - a tough ask, but not impossible.
On Sunday, Steelers took the lead, Valdix scoring after an imaginative play executed from on-form John Armstrong at 12.14.
But two penalties saw Sheffield undone.
Yared Hagos (Interference), went at 15:03 followed by Jonathan Phillips (Tripping) 18 seconds later.
Blaze took full use of the manpower advantage with Matt Marquartdt and Liam Stewart beating Ervins Mustukovs with a brace of goals in 17 seconds...something you don’t see every day.
Defenceman Christoffer Bjorklund, stepped up to find an equaliser, scoring only his third goal in 30 games, at 23;50 - and a cracking drive it was, too, from Mike Ratchuk’s pass.
Steelers thought they’d gone ahead again but goalie Brian Stewart managed to whisk the puck off the line.
Bjorklund had another effort on goal as did Guillaume Desbiens who ploughed through the middle - Steelers were threatening and took that momentum into the third period.
Blaze lost a man when Shawn Boutin was handed two plus ten for checking from behind but backed by a noisy crowd they killed the Power Play. Marc Cantin suffered a similar fate for Coventry, putting their short-handed skaters under major pressure.
But Blaze then lashed out, Canadian left winger Marquardt snapped home a rebound for a 3-2 lead.
Jace Coyle was turfed out for checking to the head and fighting but Ben O’Connor, who grabbed three points the previous night, equalised, short handed, at 57:10.
In overtime Valdix hit the side netting as Steelers sought the winner but at the other end Mustukovs saved the day, twice. Then the Swedish centre underlined his importance to the side with his second of the night to earn his side maximum points.
n Steelers and Coventry fought out an 11-goal thriller on Saturday in Sheffield, a match that had veteran fans recalling the old days of defence-free hockey at the Arena.
Coach Paul Thompson called it “crazy” and the type of match that induces heart-attacks for people of his profession.
But 6,473 fans absolutely loved it.
The plus points were goals from Levi Nelson, Coyle and two each for O’Connor and Armstrong and the fact that Brits O’Connor and Rob Dowd each helped themselves to three points. Steelers, who were 2-0 up after the first period outshot the Midlands side 43-29.
The negatives were the fact that the match was delayed for an hour because of power blackout affecting some of the lights. And the fact that Steelers kept giving the lead away. Levi Nelson’s check from behind, which led to a match penalty, was unfortunate to say the least.
But all in all, a highly colourful spectacle, especially for newcomers.
*There is no let-up for Steelers; they have another big weekend in store - Braehead Clan at home on Saturday following a trip to Cardiff on Sunday.
Sunday 15th January
Coventry Blaze 3 Sheffield Steelers 4 (OT)
Dundee Stars 5 Belfast Giants 4 (PS)
Edinburgh Capitals 3 Fife Flyers 4
Manchester Storm 6 Braehead Clan 3
IIHF Continental Cup Finals Weekend – Day 3
Ritten Sport (Italy) 1 Nottingham Panthers 4
(Nottingham Panthers create history by becoming the first UK team to win the IIHF Continental Cup)
Friday 20th January
Belfast Giants v Nottingham Panthers – 7.00pm
Braehead Clan v Manchester Storm – 7.30pm
Saturday 21st January
Belfast Giants v Dundee Stars – 7.00pm
Coventry Blaze v Cardiff Devils – 7.00pm
Fife Flyers v Manchester Storm – 7.15pm
Sheffield Steelers v Braehead Clan – 7.00pm @ Ice Sheffield
Sunday 22nd January
Cardiff Devils v Sheffield Steelers – 6.00pm
Dundee Stars v Coventry Blaze – 6.30pm
Edinburgh Capitals v Manchester Storm – 6.00pm
Nottingham Panthers v Fife Flyers – 4.00pm