Belfast Giants 6-2 Sheffield Steelers: Nasty return to Northern Ireland for coach Fox

Aaron Fox had to delay any ideas of a revenge victory at Belfast Giants' rink, 13 months after losing a high-profile Continental Cup semi-final game there.

Saturday, 7th December 2019, 9:27 am
Updated Monday, 9th December 2019, 3:54 pm
Steelers' goalie Tomas Duba is beaten, while Belfast's Patrick Mullen watches the puck over the line

Fox's Sheffield Steelers team were over-run 6-2 at the SSE Arena in their 24th league game of an unpredictable season which still sees them topping the EIHL division.The rivals play again tonight.In November 2018, as coach of Croatian champions Medvescak Zagreb, Fox's side were blanked 4-0 by Giants in a Continental Cup Semi-Final group in Northern Ireland.Then Fox had seven players in the injury list - compared to four tonight.But it was to be another 60 minutes of disappointment for the Sheffield coach as his current team ended up on the end of another high-scoring loss.Steelers had flown in a few hours earlier and were caught cold in their first shift.With just 22 seconds on the clock, Liam Reddox beat Tomas Duba, assisted by Patrick Mullen.The first power play of the night went in Steelers' favour, with Curtis Hamilton called for slashing.The SSE Arena side killed it, but then had to do the same again, when Mark Garside was binned for holding Marco Vallerand, who was back in the side after injury.Belfast were tempting fate, with Paul Swindlehurst next to be ousted, for a slashing minor at 13:16.Yet it was them who profited: Brian Ward converting short-handed, assisted by Lewis Hook, with a second left on the visitors' power play.Whatever skills Sheffield had left behind on the plane, they needed the back and sharpish.Sheffield had Janne Kolehmainen making his debut for the club after arriving from Finland, but any hopes of a first period revival were lost when Aaron Brocklehurst took an interference penalty at 18:15.With top scorer Robert Dowd out of the side (lower body injury) Sheffield needed some inspiration.Instead, they suffered a hammer blow at 24:45 when Mullen scored a spectacular solo effort, followed less than two minutes later by Giants' fourth of the evening, Reddox, nabbing his second of the night, assisted by Ward.Sheffield's evening was all but over, with less than half the match completed.That fact was underlined when Ben Lake made it 5-0 at 31:14 - seven seconds into a power play after Mikko Kuukka was served with an interference punishment.The EIHL's top goalscoring machine had yet to click into gear. The nearest they had come was when Nikolai Lemtyugov had struck a post. Defensively they had been all at sea and Duba had looked vulnerable and exposed.Giants, watched by a crowd of 3,880, had mirrored the score they had been beaten by at Sheffield Arena on November 27, in just 31 minutes.The painful night became even more so when Anthony DeLuca was hurt by a puck to his face.But Steelers dug deep and blasted in two goals in 102 seconds.First Brendan Connolly deflected home a Brocklehurst drive, then Lemtyugov scored from close range.The revival stuttered though when new boy Kolehmainen was dispatched to the penalty box and Ryan Lowney banged in number six, top-shelf.Steelers have to do much better tonight at the same rink.

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