Sheffield Steelers have injury concerns ahead of Cup semi final

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Steelers' taskmaster Aaron Fox says his top-of-the-league side must still do better after an up-and-down weekend, which featured a rare loss and injuries to key forwards.

It was a mini-series where Sheffield lost 2-1 at Fife Flyers, then put the same team away 6-4 at home the following night.

Steelers were uncharacterically generous defensively in the Arena game, which was an absorbing watch for the 6,647 fans, but doubtless far too open for the coaches on either side.

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At the end of the double-header, Sheffield's lead had been reduced to a still massive 13-pt lead at the top of the EIHL table, with second-place Belfast Giants helpfully losing a shoot-out at Coventry Blaze.

Happiness on the face of Patrick Watling Pic Dean WoolleyHappiness on the face of Patrick Watling Pic Dean Woolley
Happiness on the face of Patrick Watling Pic Dean Woolley

Coach Fox is studying video of exactly how his Sunday line up lost a 1-0 lead, and then had a 4-1 advantage reduced to 4-3, as the momentum temporarily switched.

More concerning will be injuries to Marco Vallerand and Brett Neumann ahead of Wednesday's Challenge Cup semi final first leg at Coventry, the team that helped them out with their late win over Giants.

Steelers came off best, though, in Sunday's 10-goal thriller, to put their championship challenge back on track.

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Sunday's game had a howitzer start, with an energised Daniel Ciampini and Max Humitz scoring for either side in the opening 29 seconds.

Mikko Juusola celebrates v Fife pic Dean WoolleyMikko Juusola celebrates v Fife pic Dean Woolley
Mikko Juusola celebrates v Fife pic Dean Woolley

Sheffield drove ahead 4-1 through Mark Simpson, Mikko Juusola and Josh Nicholls but then underwent an awkward spell as the Scots reduced Sheffield's lead to 4-3, through Troy Lajeunesse (penalty shot) and Brady Pouteau.

They may have fancied themselves to equalise when Mitchell Balmas was called for boarding.

But then came the turning point of the match as Ciampini scored short-handed for the league leaders.

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Vitalijs Pavlovs and Patrick Watling exchanged third period goals.

Robert Dowd and a flying Fife Flyer pic Dean WoolleyRobert Dowd and a flying Fife Flyer pic Dean Woolley
Robert Dowd and a flying Fife Flyer pic Dean Woolley

Fox said it had been "too exciting" for him to enjoy to the same extent as the supporters had but was pleased Steelers had got the job done.

The injury to Neumann "did not look good at all" he said. The injury required an x-ray.

Saturday presented something of a unique occurrence...Steelers lost an away game.

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Their first away defeat, in fact, of the 2023-24 season, but it will probably be viewed as a mere bump in the road, when the trophies are ultimately handed out.

Sheffield had plenty of efforts on Fife's net, but only found a way through once, a goal credited first to Kevin Tansey and then Mark Simpson.

Reviewing the weekend, Fox said that his team would have to play better at Coventry, midweek, than they had against Fife.

He was happy with his special teams but insisted that generally, the side had to clean up defensively with off-the-puck decisions needing some attention.