Sheffield Steelers 4 Coventry Blaze 6: Steelers open league campaign with shock defeat
Sheffield Steelers' League season started badly on Saturday night as they slumped to a surprise 6-4 home defeat to Coventry Blaze.
Steelers, without suspended forward Michael Davies, had led for much of the game, but they fell behind with eight minutes left and simply couldn't find their way back.
Coventry arrived having won their last two pre-season away games and they eked out a memorable win for coach Danny Stewart.
While the season is in its infancy we know for sure that Sheffield are going to have to do something to tighten up defensively.
Robert Dowd had opened the club's scoring for season 2019-20 with a cracking goal.
It was made by linemate Marc-Olivier Vallerand who set him free for a skate on goal and a neat finish at 3;28.
Blaze had created the best shooting opportunities before that and they killed a penalty before bouncing back.
David Broll, who seems to orchestrate most things when he was on the ice, nipped just ahead of Martin St. Pierre to equalise past Pavel Kantor, at 7:46.
But Steelers' finishing gave them the first period edge: Anthony DeLuca was unstoppable down the right flank, as was his finish at 11;57.
A steady glove from Kantor, catching an Evan Bloodoff blast, ensured Sheffield maintained the lead at the first interval.
If it had been a tight match at the beginning, it got even closer in the middle 20 minutes.
Coventry took the game to Steelers on a delayed penalty and Justin Hamonic made it 2-2.
Sheffield recovered quickly enough to score two goals from Brendan Connolly, in 93 seconds, both showing what a pest he is to deal with around the net, especially on the power play.
Yet Aaron Fox's men couldn't shrug Blaze off easily - and Janne Laakkonen reduced Blaze's disadvantage, with the game now poised at 4-3 to Steelers.
While Sheffield began to dominate, offensively, - Ben O'Connor hammered the pipework - they showed an alarming defensive weakness, conceding two goals against the run of play.
The game had turned on its head.
Andrew Johnston scored on a scintillating counter attack before Charles Corcoran gave the visitors the lead for the first time, slotting a puck that had bounced off Kantor's post, over the line.
Steelers had a power play in the last two minutes...but Drew Schiestel scored an empty netter with 10 seconds left and the points went to the Midlands.
*Steelers travel for the return leg to Coventry tomorrow.