Sheffield Steelers Continental Cup: Steelers 0 HK Gomel 4 - A step too far as tired Steelers crash out

Fatigue and stretched resources finally told on Sheffield Steelers in their third Continental Group game in three nights in Denmark.

Sunday, 21st November 2021, 8:14 pm
Sheffield Steelers' Barry Brust gets his glove to the puck against HK Gomel. Picture Dean Woolley

After wins over Danish and Lativan rivals, the game against Gomel was a bridge too far.

Steelers' defeat, allied to Aalborg's Sunday evening win over Olimp Riga, means Sheffield tumble out of the tournament.

You could see that in the way energy-sapped players couldn't close gaps created by the rampaging Belarussian skaters, epecially in the middle period.

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The best team won, by 4-0. But whether they would have done that had Sheffield had their injured four skaters playing is another matter.

Before the game, Sheffield knew that as long as they weren't defeated by three or more, they'd qualify for January's finals.

They were again without Vallerand, Connolly, Eberle and Dowd - and after two gruelling games the tank was empty.

If the travelling fans were expecting an ugly road game from their team, they certainly got one in the early stages.

Sheffield, if anything, seemed a little too cautious, icing the puck, and lacking the normal precision in transition.

Gomel hunted in tight packs and deserved their seventh-minute lead, in which Nikolai Suslo just reached a rebound before Davey Phillips could get his stick in.

Sheffield definitely looked like a team missing players.

But as conservative as they were playing, they did put some pressure on goalie Maxim Lubsky at times.

Martin Latal missed a chance set up by Matias Sointu and Anthony DeLuca had his hands in the air when he mistakenly thought the puck had crossed the line.

Despite going in behind they had competed well defensively, the biggest hit coming from Sam Jones on Dmitri Ambrozheichik.

Brust conceded two goals in the middle frame, yet he was the team's most consistent performer as the Belarusian Extraliga side monopolised both the play and the scoreboard.

A turnover on 26 minutes delivered Ivan Sekerin the chances to fire top-shelf.

Sheffield looked tired in their skating and checking, were ineffective going forward, and could have conceded more, Gomel striking the pipework, before Igor Karabanov made it 3-0.

The Belarussians looked the most dangerous outfit when Sheffield were on the power play - such was the seeming fatigue of the EIHL club.

How coach Aaron Fox would have loved to have thrown on any of his missing forwards to find a spark.

Especially when his side were awarded a four-minute penalty, courtesy of a high stick into Justin Hodgman's face.

Sadly their approach-play was poor and the golden chance came and went.

The last 10 minutes showed more tenacity and urgency from Sheffield.

A spot of Hodgman magic set up Alex Graham but the youngster couldn't get the touch he wanted.

An empty-netter from Igor Revenko settled the matter.

The 0-4 defeat meant Sheffield had to wait to see the result of Sunday night's Aalborg v Olimp to know if they progressed to the final.

*Steelers' Danish adventure had started with a 3-1 win over hosts Aalborg. DeLuca, Latal and an empty-netter from Sointu wrapped up the points against a team that had plenty of the puck but seemed resistant to go anywhere near Sheffield goalie Brust.

Brendan Connolly' s injury on 37 minutes spoiled the party though - his absence, if it is to be a long one, could be a negative factor on the rest of the season.

It might mean, however, that Andreas Valdix has his tour of duty extended with Sheffield.

*Saturday's 3-2 victory over Olimp Riga was a similar game in that Sheffield's carefully orchestrated play fashioned just enough chances to see off the Latvians.

Rok Stojanvic stood tall during a spell of sustained pressure. The goals from Graham, Sointu and Jonathan Phillips.