Sheffield Steelers grind out double wins over Fife Flyers

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Coaching Sheffield Steelers should carry a Government health warning.

Aaron Fox hinted as much after a weekend that saw his team wobble towards Saturday’s not-particularly-healthy 1-0 home win over Fife Flyers followed by a migraine-inducing victory by the same score at the home of the same opponents, on Sunday.

It was a weekend of just two goals, mutually neutralising play, and suffocating defensive hockey.

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Steelers needed the points, of course, to keep in the title race, but almost as important for them is to entertain their fans in the manner they have been used to.

Before Saturday, Sheffield had lost one third of their home games.

And they had goalie Matt Greenfield, primarily, to thank for those two points, with attacking players drying up in the slender win.

All eyes currently are on Belfast Giants’ form, they rammed in 14 goals in their two weekend games.

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In Kirkcaldy on Sunday, goals were too much to ask for from either side, in 60 minutes and the super-tight game had to be decided by penalty shots.

Phillips Connolly and Dowd competing at Fife on Sunday. Picture: Dean WoolleyPhillips Connolly and Dowd competing at Fife on Sunday. Picture: Dean Woolley
Phillips Connolly and Dowd competing at Fife on Sunday. Picture: Dean Woolley

It had been yet another tense night.

Greenfield had to be on his toes for a first-minute one-on-one duel with Kamerin Nault.

But in common with the frugal nature of the previous evening, the net was protected well by both the Steeler and his opposite number Shane Owen.

Sheffield have been missing illness victim Daniel Ciampini’s solid points production and have been moving players around, so offensive chemistry was not always obvious.

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Scott Allen promised much, first with a wrap-around and then a full-blooded drive on a power play after Jonas Emmerdahl was called for tripping.

But once again, the goalless deadlock remained between these two stubborn rivals.

Nobody wants overtime on a Sunday night, especially the Steeler fans in the crowd facing work on a Monday morning.

But that’s how a barren regulation spell ended.

Excruciatingly, overtime didn’t separate the teams so the sides went into a shootout for the second time in five days.

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n Saturday saw a lot of workmanlike performances in a first period illuminated mainly by the quality of Brandon Whistle, who skated into a rare Fife gap, embarrassing his marker Brayden Sherbinin, and backhanded home.

Both teams minimised mistakes and defended well, Reece Harsch stopping a possible breakaway for Brett Neumann and man of the match Greenfield getting enough on a Janne Kivilahti shot to see it bobble wide of the post.

Nault had hit the pipework for Fife and Marco Vallerand did the same, but grade-A chances were few and far between.

When Flyers’ Mikael Johansson was called for hooking Tomas Pitule, Neumann had two similar chances on the right flank but couldn’t force the puck past Shane Owen.

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Vallerand was in the wars soon afterwards when Matt Petgrave’s shot hit him in the midriff.

Steelers were outshooting Fife two-to-one but there was a nervous atmosphere in the 6,352-attendance Arena.

The Scots, possibly feeding off this, put pressure on Sheffield’s back line with Janne Laakkonen, Nault and Kivilahti testing Greenfield, but he proved unbeatable, chalking up his seventh shut out this season.

Fox said it had been a “weird” game in which offensive performance levels had tailed off against a very defence-minded team.