Sheffield Steelers Continental Cup: Steelers 3 Olimp Riga 2

Sheffield are heading towards the finals of the Continental Cup after overcoming Olimp Riga of Latvia 3-2.

Saturday, 20th November 2021, 5:40 pm

Despite being severely under-staffed Steelers maintained their momentum to tie up their second win of the group games.

Martin Latal's speed, Justin Hodgman's ingenuity and Andreas Valdix's measured contributions provided some tremendous cameos, but the consistent and precise nature of the Sheffield forecheck was a joy to watch.

Steelers, with four forwards out injured, had 18-year-old Alex Graham on their third line.

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And the Dronfield lad repaid the coach's faith in him on Sheffield's first shot on goal; he flashed in a low shot past Russian goalie Andrey Bonch-Bruevich, at 2:22.

Once ahead, Sheffield played sensible hockey, in the main, befitting their under-strength roster.

They were quick to pour men into their own slot to deny any 'grade A' chances and when they gave away two penalties in the offensive zone, the penalty killers did their job.

Olimp haven't had an exceptional start to their Hokeja Liga regular season, losing five of 11 games, and their right winger Mikelis Redlihs blew their best chance from close in, on the power play.

Alex Graham celebrates scoring for Sheffield Steelers against Riga. Pic Dean Woolley

The Latvians were fortunate at the start of the second period, Georgijs Pujacs hacked down Anthony DeLuca but the referee kept his whistle in his pocket.

And DeLuca was shaking his head again when he was felled again in similar circumstances.

If Sheffield fans in the Danish rink were complaining, it didn't last.

A face off won by Hodgman fell to Matias Sointu who flashed it home for 2-0 at 31:38.

Olimp, formed just three years ago, were struggling despite the possession they'd occasionally enjoyed.

And one of their defencemen, Didzis Jansons, hobbled off after a hit on the boards by Evan Mosey.

With a Sunday game against Gomel ahead, Sheffield needed to keep the puck ín harmless areas and deny Olimp a way back.

But their opponents cashed in on some rare lack of control in the Sheffield defensive zone and Sandis Mezaraups halved the gap between the sides at 42:49.

Martin Latal thought he'd made it 3-1 but his shot appeared to ping Bonch-Bruevich's post from close range at 45;20.

And Valdix was an inch away from making contact from a Mosey feed.

Eventually, Sheffield found the net again, Jonathan Phillips re-directing Daine Rodd's shot on the power play with six minutes left.

Sheffield goalie Rok Stojanovic was all arms and legs as Olimp tried and failed to score during a 42-second 5-on-3 play.

But with 81 seconds remaining, Mikelis Redlish beat Stojanovic to set up a nail biting finish.