Ice Hockey: Sheffield Steelers smother Blaze to book semi finals spot

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Sheffield Steelers last night romped into the Play Off semi-finals after ripping Coventry Blaze to shreds.

They won 6-1 (9-3 on aggregate) and must have given Ryan Finnerty a few grey hairs - the former Steelers coach was at Sheffield Arena to watch the side who will play his own Braehead Clan on Saturday in Nottingham (5pm.)

It was a cagey start with neither side having an effort in the first five minutes.

But Drew Fata got the pulses racing with a skate from behind his own net to the opposite end.

Nejc Berlisk tested Frank Doyle’s glove with a point shot and suddenly the cannons started to sound.

Steelers, described by coach Gerad Adams as “a team with confidence,” took the game to Coventry and Rob Dowd almost converted a back-hander.

It was Dowd who then hit a d-man on the boards before Stefan Meyer measured a short pass to unmarked Dustin Kohn, who blasted low past Mike Zacharias, Coventry’s American goaltender.

There were some fascinating one-on-one battles across the ice, with Steve Goertzen and Jonathan Phillips providing pace and bite.

Steelers, with centreman Jeff Legue in the stands with a broken jaw, managed to control Ryan Ginand, the League’s top point scorer, (97 in 60 apps.)

Adam Henrich and Ashley Tait, who both landed 66 points in the regular season, were little more than passing threats.

Steelers could have added another before the break with Max Lacroix bringing the best out of Zacharias.

Blaze finished sixth in the League and looked out of their depth in the middle session in which Sheffield scored three in five minutes.

While Blaze rarely threatened, Zacharias had to endure a barrage of shots before one finally passed him by.

Ironically it came just after Marc Lefebvre had called a Time Out - whatever the Blaze coach said backfired. Rob Dowd bagged a brace, the second shot skimming off Zacharias’ helmet before Dowd tucked it past him.

At 35:16 we witnessed Blaze capitulate and defenceman Mike Egener go bonkers.

A defensive breakdown allowed Lacroix to score and Egener systematically smashed his stick to pieces on the top of his own net. Then he attempted to take the bench door off its hinges.

Steelers just needed to be sensible in the final 20 minutes. There was one minor blemish when Ross Venus coasted in from Blaze’s right wing to beat Doyle.

But an immaculately constructed Power Play goal saw Kohn add his second of the night. D-man Danny Meyers joined the party late with Steelers’ sixth of the night.

Bring on the semi final!