Sheffield Steelers finish their season with heads held high
If your team's season is to end it early, there's no disgrace in going out like this.
Steelers put in a remarkable performance at Cardiff and finished the campaign with heads held high.
Sheffield weren't as good as Cardiff at the start of the season and weren't as good in the end of season play offs. But at least in the 8-11 aggregate loss this weekend, Steelers showed courage and guts.
Too little, too late, ofcourse. And it will be a very different team under a new coach when the 2019-20 season gets underway
But at least Steelerhockey is not that far away if this weekend's displays are a measure of things to come.
Steelers, having beaten Cardiff 5-4 on Saturday, lost 7-3 in Wales but with 11 minutes left they were ahead overall. Devils finished strongest.
Cardiff were typically intense at the start, too, but Sheffield had chances from Tanner Eberle and Tom Zanoski, who finished his shot weakly. Cardiff showed they were sharper than that, Joey Martin whipped around Aaron Johnson to set up Sean Bentivoglio from close range, he levelled (5-5 overall.)
On Steelers' first penalty kill, (Ben O'Connor; interference 15;49) Whistle performed the save of the match from Martin. But the goalie couldn't repeat the feat on the next play, Martin burying a rebound at 17;46 to put Cardiff ahead for the first time (5-6 aggregate.)
McGrath took a roughing penalty but Jordan Owens - in possibly his best Steeler game - forehanded a shorthanded breakaway to level again on aggregate.
Sheffield escaped when Fournier banged the puck against the pipework but then Mark Richardson darted through the middle and backhanded a rebound, with no markers near him. Devils were back in front (3-1 on the night) ...yet Steelers were still in it.
Eric Neiley proved that lashing in a Bentivoglio giveaway 26 seconds into the third period. Cardiff collapsed and an Eberle-initiated raid set up Owens to give Sheffield the two-leg advantage again (8-7.) Agonisingly, a PP goal for Layne Ulmer tied the series up again at 49;40.
And 40 seconds later Josh Batch scored to nose Devils ahead, a goal that survived video review.
Steelers threw everything up the ice. But Martin backhanded in a killer goal which handed the Welsh passage to the finals and staked a hat-trick with an empty netter with one second remaining.
Coach Tom Barrasso summed up after his last game with the club: “I think the players left everything they had on the ice, it’s always disappointing when your journey comes to an end, you only have so many seasons as a professional player.”