Coventry Blaze 3 Sheffield Steelers 8: Injury blow takes shine off return to top of table

Sheffield Steelers rounded off a highly-successful weekend with maximum points and a place at the top of the league - but behind the scenes they have another significant injury problem.

Sunday, 24th November 2019, 7:58 pm
Updated Sunday, 24th November 2019, 8:39 pm
Goalie Tomas Duba and Aaron Brocklehurst try to close the door on Coventry

Sunday's brilliant 8-3 win at Coventry Blaze was marred by confirmation that Aaron Johnson must go under the surgeon's knife again.

At Glasgow Clan, a week ago, the former NHL defenceman was slashed on the same hand that he'd suffered a fracture earlier this season.

The Star understands he will undergo an almost identical operation in Sheffield this week and will be out for up to 10 weeks.

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The club is thought to have extended Mikka Kuukka's loan deal by a fortnight, as part of the cover.

On the ice, at least, things are going extremely well.

Steelers had endured a hard time at Coventry's hands earlier this season, losing to them twice at home and forfeiting their earlier trip to the Skydome.

And that misfortune was reflected in the fourth minute on Sunday when Evan Bloodoff expertly found Charles Corcoran at the back post and he rattled the puck past Tomas Duba.

Tomas Duba throws a glove at a Coventry shot

Two minutes later John Armstrong broke free and equalised; the tall centreman adding to a formidable performance he'd made the night before, when Sheffield sealed a thrilling, 5-4 overtime win over Nottingham Panthers.

It was the start of a stirring revival.

Despite having Brendan Connolly in the penalty box for embellishment, speed king Jonathan Phillips punished Blaze, his counter-attack bringing his third goal of the season.

The visiting Power Play special team then did their bit - Nikolai Lemtyugov finishing off a move created by Robert Dowd and Marek Troncinsky at 13;09.

Tanner Eberle, who has been enjoying the best plus-minus stats in the EIHL, scored unassisted, some three minutes later.

At 4-1 Coventry had to stop their freefall and Jordan Hedley replaced Jamie Phillips in their net.

But Hedley was beaten by the increasingly influential Steelers' defenceman Troncinsky, 108 seconds into the middle session, his shot possibly getting a tip from Lucas Sandstrom.

Blaze, who started the night four points and two places adrift of Sheffield and had been thrashed 7-3 on Saturday at Dundee Stars, were staring at another humbling defeat.

But they have a considerable asset in Corcoran, and the young American centre fired in his second of the night at 30:55.

And they put Duba under pressure, bringing the best out of the Czech veteran.

But a second shorthanded goal of the night, this time from Eric Meland effectively sealed the away win, and was followed two minutes later by a sublime Connolly goal for 7-2.

It had been a non-stop goal festival and Alex Forbes joined in with Blaze's third of the night, slim consolation for the majority of the 2,093 crowd, especially as it was followed by a final strike from man of the match Troncinsky.