Sheffield Steeldogs have their sights set on two more pieces of silverware having qualified for the Finals Weekend for the first time since 2012.
Their progress wasn’t easy with the Solihull Barons proving as tough an opponent as expected in the playoff semi-finals, especially in their own rink. With netting instead of plexiglass, poor ice and a small rink, ice hockey at Hobs Moat Road is a very different sport - and one the hosts play well.
Milan Kolena silenced the local fans after just 25 seconds as the Steeldogs got off to a quick start.
This didn’t signal the start of a one-sided game as the Barons dug in, used their size and finished their checks. This paid almost instant rewards and they were level inside 5 minutes.
Sheffield stuck to their game and Liam Charnock battled his way through to give them the lead before the first break.
In a very physical game where the officials largely kept whistles in pockets, Solihull scored on a power play before Soar powered a shot home to give them a 3-2 lead.
The Dogs' superior fitness showed in the latter stages of the game with Kolena’s persistence and skill finding an equalizer before he set up Ashley Calvert for a late winner. A hard earned 4-3 win giving Sheffield a one goal advantage heading home.
The Barons put up a good fight at iceSheffield but after a nervy first period, Adrian Palak doubled the Dogs aggregate lead. It was a close game but Sheffield always seemed able to do enough to win – including a sequence that saw half a dozen shots saved or blocked by Dmitiri Zimozdra and those playing on front of him.
A goal in the final minute by deadline day returnee Greg Wood, put the icing on a 5-2 game, the Dogs taking the tie 9-5 on aggregate.
In the other semi, Telford defeated Hull in overtime after the teams were deadlocked over 120 minutes. This set up the Northern playoff final this weekend. The 1st leg will be in Telford on Saturday before the 2nd leg at iceSheffield on Sunday (5:30 face-off).
Both teams will also compete in the Final Four in Coventry against the Southern finalists Basingstoke and Peterborough; the overall winners will be crowned National Champions.