Sheffield Steelers 5-3 Manchester Storm

Aaron Fox goes into this week with one-third of his squad on the injury list.

Sunday, 31st October 2021, 10:27 am

Eight Steelers have physical issues, with Sheffield due to play Fife Flyers at the Arena on Wednesday.

The latest victim was Martin Látal, who skated off in the first period of Saturday's 5-3 Challenge Cup win over Manchester Storm, clutching the top of his head.

Sheffield already had their biggest casualty list for some time; they started without Keaton Ellerby, Brendan Connolly, Diane Todd, Barry Brust and John Armstrong.

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Fox says he has no idea if any of them will be available for the midweek League match.

Of his two-way players, Cole Shudra has one arm in a sling while Alex Graham played despite an upper-body problem.

Fox said Saturday had been a "huge character effort" - he'd looked up and down his Arena bench at times to see more gaps than players.

But they played smart, simple hockey and overcame the fatigue of a team that had already won 7-4 in Manchester on Friday night.

They also had a 3+1 contribution from Matias Sointu in only his fifth game.

Fox said the 31-year-old Finn was a reliable asset, who can play on any line and in any part of the game.

He added that Graham played "solid and responsible" despite a nagging injury.

The coach also commended Sam Jones, who is developing with extra ice time responsibilities and threw decent hits on the boards.

Halloween smiles from understaffed Steelers. Photo: Dean Woolley.

Sheffield were at their best when Justin Hodgson's intelligent forays opened up channels, Marco Vallerand scooted down the right and Robert Dowd showed heart and face-off skills.

Jones also caught the eye with those jarring checks on Marc McNulty and Jacob Lutwyche.

They had taken a 41-second lead, too, Hodgman starting a move eventually tipped in by Látal.

Rok Stojanovic was beaten by Curtis Hamilton after 10 minutes on a four-on-four play, though.

Matias Sointu, hat-trick hero. Picture by Hayley Roberts.

Hodgman wasn't fazed. He likes to play with a smile on his face and he was grinning again seconds into the middle period. His pass picked out Davey Phillips who fed Sointu for 2-1.

Anthony DeLuca had two bites at an attack on Matt Ginn's goal, the second running up a 3-1 scoreline.

A rash of penalties - the dumbest example being Linden Springer's bizarre decision to punch the back of DeLuca's helmet - impacted the flow of the game. When DeLuca himself was called for slashing, Manchester's Scott Simmonds tipped in their second goal.

Both sides were wrestling with fatigue as the match went on, it was a case of who made the costliest mistake.

Ginn may have to hold his hand up - he allowed a soft shot from Sointu to sneak underneath him at 50:59.

Then the 6,082 home fans winced as a Dallas Ehrhardt shot bobbled over Stojanovic's blocker for 4-3.

Gruesome Steeler. Photo: Dean Woolley.

Once again, it was all too close for comfort.

But an empty-netter popped in by hat-trick man Sointu secured maximum points.

Now Fox has to wait to see who can come off that Halloween horror show of an injury list.