Eighth-placed Sheffield Steeldogs happy to be in the Play Offs

Lewis Baldwin
Lewis Baldwin
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With their final league position decided and play-off hockey guaranteed, the Steeldogs injury ravaged lineup could have been forgiven for taking it easy over the weekend.

However they showed the kind of commitment and effort which will be essential if they are to have any joy in the post-season, despite going down twice,, 3-6 to Bracknell Bees and 3-4 to Telford Tigers.

On Saturday the league champion Telford had to work hard after goals from Donatas Kumeliauskas and Arnoldas Bosas put the Steeldogs into a two goal lead midway through the first period.

Telford's success has been built on their ability to grind wins out of any situation and they worked their way back to equalise as the buzzer sounded for the end of the session.

Liam Kirk finished off a good move to put Sheffield back in front but the waves of Telford pressure led to a goal from Cory McEwen.

The final 20 minutes had plenty of action but both netminders kept everything out - including James Hadfield denying the giant figure of Doug Clarkson on a breakaway.

Overtime didn't last long with veteran Jonathan Weaver squeezing the puck home to give the champions the extra point. A tough end to the game for James Hadfield who finished with a save percentage over 93% having faced 59 shots.

Sunday's trip to Bracknell was more a match of equals with the Bees having pushed the Steeldogs for the final playoff spot. The home side were the better team in the opening period with goals from Ingoldsby and Basic giving a two goal lead.

A brilliantly taken strike from Kumeliauskas got Sheffield on the scoreboard but the Bees came back to lead 3-1 late in the second. Charlie Thompson dropped the gloves with Harvey Stead and this helped fire up the the bench with Tom Barry scoring his first ever goal in the EPL.

Steeldogs looked like a different side in the third period as combinations clicked and started troubling Bracknell. The second line of Kumeliauskas/Heywood/Calvert were a constant threat and created two goals for Ashley Calvert. Stanislav Lascek found his mojo and bagged a brace as they eventually cruised to a 6-3 victory.

Coach Greg Wood took lots of encouragement for the challenges to come; "This weekend has shown a lot of quality and consistency and delivering on what we have been practising. After a slow start against Bracknell, we eventually got going and did show some real quality in all areas of the ice - I was really, really pleased.

"The second line have been brilliant. You look at the players on that line (Kumeliauskas/Heywood/Calvert), they have size and are capable of matching any line on any team. Sometimes you might want a little more creativity out of them but their job is very tough, they are usually out against the top line of other teams, working hard. They might not produce as much as you always want them to but tonight they really contributed to the scoring.

"Tom Barry has had a fantastic weekend, he's been the 4th defenceman which isn't usually his role. The biggest thing for him has been keeping it all simple, making the plays and passes and not over complicating things. He didn't look out of place. When someone is out injured there's a place up for grabs and he's done well".