ICE HOCKEY: Steelers qualify in Cup but League form slumps

Matt Stephenson, Shawn Limpright - Sheffield Steelers v Edinburgh Capitals.
Matt Stephenson, Shawn Limpright - Sheffield Steelers v Edinburgh Capitals.
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Coventry Blaze 1 Sheffield Steelers 2 (Sunday)

Steelers 1 Edinburgh Capitals 2 (Saturday)

PULP were packing out Sheffield Arena.

While next door in iceSheffield, Steelers’ forwards spent almost 60 minutes playing out of tune.

Such was their absence of harmony, they set the scene for the most unlikely result of the season.

And bottom club Edinburgh piped up with their first road win of the season, after 14 attempts.

For the second week running, Steelers had not exactly Pulped their own title ambitions, with a home loss, but they’d certainly hindered it.

Yet if that wasn’t strange enough here’s another weird factor.

After two consecutive losses, Steelers played reasonably well!

I have criticised them this term for winning yet not playing well. Now I’m not shy of saying, apart from rank bad luck and maybe carelessness in front of net, they performed mostly with aggression and drive.

The other factor in Caps’ favour was feisty goaltender Tomas Hiadlovsky - a Slovakian who was in no mood for generosity.

In the first period, Steelers had 15 shots on him; enough to have won the match convincingly.

Yet the Scots defensive system never let its vice-like grip loosen, and eventually, Sheffield, despite two new players in their ranks, ran out of steam. Curtis Leinweber had put Caps in front at 25.19 with a Power Play goal after Matt Stephenson clumsily hooked the puck out of play to take a delay the game minor. Stephenson redeemed himself to equalise at 39:40.

I expected the floodgates to open - but they remained tightly shut other than one other goal - from Capitals Willie Nicolson scored at 53.46.

Another element in this curious defeat was the fact that Tylor Michel’s first shift was his last. He hit Marc Fowley near the left boards and was promptly dismissed for checking to the head.

Injured team-mates Jim Jorgensen and Danny Meyers, both with a decent view from the gantry, thought the small (5ft 8ins) Scottish player had been crouching - and it was merely an unfortunate collision. But Meyers accepted it was a call most referees would make given modern safety guidelines.

Ex player Andre Malo disagreed: “It thought it was a good hit - I had just started to applaud it when he got the Game Penalty.”

Michel let lose a four letter rant clearly audible to the crowd before he departed.

Laster he told The Star “I’d done a pretty good job holding my temper this season but it went then! I went in with my shoulder and he was already low and then seemed to go lower at the last minute. I don’t want to hit anyone on the head and I understand why the League is trying to ban it. But it wasn’t a fair call.”

Last night, Jason Hewitt was the star of the show as Steelers played out their final Challenge Cup game of the round robin session; another dead rubber event.

The effervescent Hewitt, on a perosnal high after his favourite football team won the Manchester derby, finished off a Jonathan Phillips move at 25.52. That was cancelled out by Russ Cowley’s 100th elite league goal.

But Hewitt scored the winner in the 33rd minute. It meant Steelers won their group and play Dundee Stars in the quarter finals.