Sheffield Steeldogs were unable to get the better of reigning league champions Basingstoke Bison in two games, last weekend.
They faltered 3-0 away from home before being pipped 4-5 at iceSheffield.
A trip to Hampshire is never an easy prospect and for an injury and suspension ravaged Steeldogs side, it proved too great a challenge.
Greg Wood was denied the services of Kumeliauskas and Palak (still injured) along with Mrna and Pattison (suspended) and to make it worse, Jan Křivohlávek’s spell as cover had been ended by an injury last Sunday.
That meant only two imports (out of a possible 5) and a third line made up of Charlie Thompson (20), Cam Brownley (19) and 16 year old Joe Colton.
Despite all that the Steeldogs worked and hard and didn’t give the Bison an easy night. Jarolin put them ahead early and Connolly made it 2-0 just past the half way mark however it wasn’t Towalski added the third in the 54th minute that the game was over. James Hadfield turned away 50 shots on a busy night at the office for the Dogs net minder.
Sunday’s reverse fixture threatened a repeat when Shaun Thompson put the Bison up after 6 minutes 30 - however the Dogs were up for the battle. Lloyd Gibson was back in the line-up and this gave three more balanced lines to spread the workload.
Andy Hirst beat Hiadlovsky on the power play only for Towalski to stun the Dogs with a short-handed effort. Liam Kirk danced through the Bison to score a highlight reel goal to send the teams in level after one period.
A cracker from Bosas put the resurgent Dogs ahead but the Basingstoke’s strength and depth kept them in it and Antonov tied it at 3-3. The final session showed signs that both sides were tiring, with mistakes creeping in. Antonov scored but Brownley set Brcko up to level immediately. The decisive goal came at 57.19 as a Karpov shot was deflected off a stick and skate to beat Hadfield and break Sheffield hearts.
Goal scorer Andy Hirst struggled to come to terms with the result saying: “We are all feeling dejected, gutted. I really thought we were going to win tonight. If we had got anything yesterday it would have been pure luck, we tried so hard but we didn’t have enough. But tonight I thought we deserved at least a point.
“I’ve been so impressed with our imports; they could easily have thought that they were on their own without much support but they have really soldiered through - they’ve shown their character, their resilience.
“The guys who have been here for such a long time have, guys like Ben Morgan and Lewis Bell and Tim Smith, it’s in their identity to keep battling and that’s why we are so close. We don’t blame each other, we don’t get on each other’s backs but we do show a cracking team spirit. As long as we stay positive and put the effort in we are always going to have a chance”.
Steeldogs will welcome Mrna and Pattison back from suspension next Saturday when the Manchester Phoenix make their first visit of the season to iceSheffield for a 7.30 face-off.