Coventry Blaze vs Sheffield Steelers: Casualties continue yet Steelers seem unstoppable

How long can Sheffield Steelers continue to grind out championship points with key personnel missing?

Saturday, 15th January 2022, 10:31 am

Hopefully for the rest of the season - as there is no sign of the casualty list ending any time soon.

Coach Aaron Fox refers to his "infirmary" - where players like Brendan Connolly and Adrian Saxrud-Danielsen have gone and are yet to re-emerge.

On Friday, they were again without hard-working forwards John Armstrong and Tanner Eberle.

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Yet they did enough to snatch a 2-1 win at Coventry Blaze.

With Cardiff Devils losing 1-0 at Belfast Giants on the same night, Sheffield are back on top. They and Cardiff each have 37 points but the Welsh have played five more times.

Devils are now entering the second half of the 54-game season and must be wondering if Sheffield are ever going to slip up.

The run-up to Friday's Midlands encounter couldn't have been much more different for the teams involved. Steelers had chalked up a 5-1 win over Fife Flyers, Blaze had been beaten by the same score at Belfast.

Sheffied Steelers' Sam Jones and team celebrate his goal. Picture: Scott Wiggins

Oddly enough, the 5-1 advantage was the one Sheffield enjoyed in their last trip to the Skydome.

And the visitors took the lead at 5:12 with man of the match defenceman Sam Jones claiming his first goal of the season, assisted by Alex Graham.

The jubilation was short-lived. Seventeen seconds into Coventry's next shift, Ross Venus equalised with a shot over Rok Stojanovic's shoulder.

Two decent, even-handed goals - but neither side could improve on that before the first interval.

Hodgman, cleared to play again after a Covid infection, served up a good chance for Marco Vallerand but C.J. Motte was up to the test in the home goal.

A goalless middle period meant it was all to play for in the final 20.

Sheffield finally broke through with nine minutes left.

From close range on the power play, Hodgman netted for the first time in 20 games to give Steelers the lead, helped by Tommaso Traversa and Martin Látal, silencing the majority of the 1,957 home fans.

Blaze upped their offensive output as the clock ticked away.

They briefly pulled the goalie for an extra skater and Steelers lost Jonathan Phillips for a tripping penalty with 10 seconds left, leading to a Blaze Time Out.

It was all very dramatic but Steelers stayed calm and rode the storm to take the points back to South Yorkshire.

Aaron Fox's men host Guildford Flames at the Arena tonight (7pm.)