Sheffield Steelers 4 Hull Stingrays 2 (Sunday)
Coventry Blaze 0 Sheffield Steelers 3 (Saturday)
SEVEN months ago, Hull delivered a barbed sting straight into Sheffield Steelers’ hearts.
Their unexpected win at iceSheffield put Steelers out of the Play Offs to ensure a trophyless season, ultimately leading to 10 new arrivals and departures.
Last night, in Challenge Cup combat at the same venue, Steelers won, but there was more controversy with NHL guest Tom Sestito ejected and facing a ban.
Colin Shields had a jarring introduction to the game, hurting his back on the boards.
But linemate Ashley Tait was having no such luck, his pace a constant threat to Hull’s rearguard, as was Tylor Michel, who caught the eye offensively and on the back check. Sestito’s delightful through pass showed the NHLer has more than brawn, but Steve Goertzen couldn’t get past Ben Bowns.
Yet Bowns, the former Steeldog couldn’t defy Jeff Legue who wriggled past him to backhand home for 1-0, at 10;01.
Bowns is not a Great Britain goalie for nothing though and did well to stop Michel from close in. And Dominic Osman reminded Steelers’ of Hull’s potential when he fired over.
Violence flared at 23;19 when towering Sestito hit British forward Andy Ward, on the boards and Ryan Hand dropped the gloves to remonstrate.
Sestito seemed to be winning their scrap but Hand suddenly got handy, evading the linesmen to get in a few overhand lefts.
Sestito, here to get ice time during the NHL was then kicked out for the original infraction, ruled as a check to the head. Having been sent off, he may now be banned for three games or longer if a disciplinary review demands it.
Hand was KO’d and taken to hospital.
To me, it looked like a fair shoulder charge from a big man on a smaller one.
The game passed the half way point with just one goal in it.
But with Osman in the penalty box, Matt Stephenson and Legue set up Shields in a slick move, for 2-0.
Sheffield’s lead was halved by a cracking finish, short-handed, by Matty Davies at 36;50. And Chris Sykes could then have levelled before the second interval.
They only had to wait until 42;05 for another ex-Steeldog Janis Ozolins to dance around Mark Thomas and flash the puck home for 2-2.
Ozolins then slammed the puck in the centre of John DeCaro’s crossbar.
But a 4-on-3 Power Play - after a dodgy refereeing call on Hand - saw Stephenson score a rocket at 53;02. Rod Sarich added another, celebrating his GB call-up.
Such was the excellence of Steelers’ defence allied to Coventry’s offensive paralysis, goalie DeCaro had to make just 14 saves to ensure his team waltzed to an away shut out.
Sestito finished off a Power Play move for the opener at 3.27. Blaze were heavily outshot in the second session and Steelers could have had more than Goertzen’s strike.
Feeble Blaze managed a solitary shot on goal in period three; Lee Esders deepening their misery with a shorthanded goal. A uniquely painful night for Blaze boss Paul Thompson.