Steelers left it late to win a friendly derby at iceSheffield last night against lower league Steeldogs.
It was a less-than-convincing performance by the champions and coach Ryan Finnerty’s job now is to ensure no sloppiness continues into Saturday’s home league game against Dundee.
Steeldogs are clearly a step-up from the Scimitars of yesterday but the £9 (adult) ticket seemed steep for a friendly - and the fact England football were on television kept the attendance below 800.
After a chaotic opening pre-game presentation, the match was 25 minutes late starting.
But the opening exchanges soon suggested the English Premier team were no longer miles adrift from their Elite League neighbours in size, speed and quality.
However, fluent d-man Steve Birstin waltzed through the defence to set up Jeff Legue to open Steelers’ scoring and Tom Squires made it 2-0 in a 40-second burst.
Dogs didn’t crumble and a backhander from eye-catching Latvian forward Janis Ozolins halved the lead. While this was a match not at full pelt, it was interesting to see Jason Hewitt and Thomas Jeffrey at odds and Andre Payette pin Matt Stephenson to the board.
The first 10 minutes of the middle period saw Steelers outworked. Bebris was granted unfettered access to Geoff Woolhouses’s crease and roofed an equaliser and then Scott Morris nipped in ahead of Finnerty to give Dogs a 3-2 lead. So half-paced were Steelers that it is no exaggeration to suggest their EPL cousins could have nabbed a hat-full more.
A get out of jail card came with the game’s first penalty, with a lousy refereeing call against Andre Payette.
On the man-advantage Ashley Tait dribbled the puck over the line for 3-3.
And at 54;08 Jason Hewitt - a player for any occasion- wrist shot home the winner.