Sheffield Steelers 5-3 Manchester Storm
Steelers streaked to a relatively-comfortable 5-3 victory over Manchester Storm in a Challenge Cup qualification round match at Sheffield Arena on Saturday night.
Justin Hodgman had a scintallating night for the home side, scoring four points.
The centreman barely put a foot wrong.
Manchester netted twice in the last five minutes with the game out of reach. It perhaps gave the scoreline a slightly-flattering look.
Sheffield started the night off with Barry Brust in goal, the big Canadian making his debut.
Brust had a couple of confidence-boosting saves to help him acclimatise in the first period, one of them an eye-catching glove save from Cameron Critchlow.
But the first period bore all the hallmarks of an early season game, plenty of energy but not much efficiency.
The main problem seemed to be pass-accuracy in the offensive zone.
On one power play, Sheffield misdirected the puck outside the final third on three occasions.
Tyson Fawcett came closest to beating Brust, he burst down the right wing and clattered the pipework at 6:54.
Marco Vallerand, straight off the bench, had earlier been denied by Matt Ginn in the Storm goal.
Manchester had not scored a goal in their last 72 minutes of play, over two prior games, but they'd had more shots on goal in that opening session.
However, they were outclassed in a middle period which saw Hodgman showed Arena fans some of the many tools at his disposal.
His delightful backhanded pass set up Tanner Eberle to score.
Marco Vallerand out in an unstoppable shift and put his body on the line to notch Sheffield's second.
Finlay Ulrick pulled one back for Ryan Finnerty's men but Hodgman scored his first Steeler goal at 33:37.
Hodgman picked up his third point of the night when he teed up Eberle who sniped into the top corner at 38:28.
With Manchester's Linden Springer chucked out of the game for a late check on Martin Latal, it didn't look good for the visitors.
Bizarrely, though, Storm won the last session 2-1.
Evan Mosey gave the puck away in the 41st minute, but Ben Churchfield, brought in to take over from Brust, saved the day. Mosey, on the same shift, made up for his rare slip by powering down the right flank and making a goal for Travis Oleksuk. Hodgman, again, was part of the move.
But Storm finished strongly.
Ben Wilson narrowed the score to 5-2 with a Storm goal at 55:05 and Dallas Ehardt added another late effort - but it was too little too late.