Sheffield Steelers v Manchester Storm: Steelers close gap at the top

Steelers grabbed their chance to reduce the gap between themselves and leaders Belfast Giants, but only after an edgy, energy-sapping 2-1 win over next-to-bottom Manchester Storm.

Sunday, 27th March 2022, 7:19 pm
Sheffield Steelers Justin Hodgman jousts for possession against Manchester Storm

With eight League games remaining, the two points were more important than the performance.

No one can complain after a maximum points weekend, even if Sunday's victory at the Arena fell a little flat.

A goal from Brandon Whistle, repaying his coach's faith in selecting him, won the gritty battle.

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Storm, who blew Fife Flyers away 4-1 on Saturday, were doggedly resistant in a first period in which both sides looked a little lackluster after their conquests of the night before.

Steelers, who had scratched Nico Feldner and Tommaso Traversa from their line-up, had some half-decent shots on goalie Jason Bacashihua, but most seemed to head straight to the American's glove.

Marco Vallerand toiled around the opposition crease and was unfortunate with one wrist shot, yet Storm went closer, Tyson Fawcett hitting the outside of Rok Stojanovic's post after Kevin Schulze had earlier surrendered possession.

Robert Dowd steadied the ship, though, breaking clear and firing gloriously high for 1-0 at 12:59.

Sheffield Steelers' Robert Dowd buries the puck

The shot had the speed and accuracy that both sides had failed to find.

While Sheffield had more of the puck, Manchester could have levelled but Curtis Hamilton couldn't make contact with a mid-air puck.

The middle period was a further example of two teams failing to carve out clean chances.

Both teams were losing the puck more often than they were stringing a number of passes together.

Manchester celebrate their equalier

There was no shortage of effort, just no concentrated threat on either netminder.

That is until Frankie Melton found plenty of room to rip in a high shot over Stojanovic's shoulder for 1-1 at 38:00.

Coach Aaron Fox then had the task of awaking his team from their slumbers.

It had certainly seemed a tired Steelers' performance to that point.

The vast majority of the 7,183 Arena fans hoped the coach would weave his magic and Steelers would find some offensive rhythm.

The start to the third period, frankly, was dismal.

With the ice surface deteriorating, neither side could attempt anything fancy, and long stretch passes clocked up the number of icing calls and stoppages were the norm.

When Antonín Boruta was called for tripping Melton, Storm had a couple of opportunities.

But Whistle's instinctive strike made it 2-1 at 48:44.

*On Saturday, Sheffield put on a dominating show at a team they have struggled against previously, outclassing Cardiff Devils 6-2 on their own rink.

The game showed that when Sheffield had manpower back from injury - Evan Mosey and Davey Phillips returned - they can really turn on the magic.

Tanner Eberle scored twice and there were singles from Martin Latal, John Armstrong, Mosey, and Adrian Saxrud-Danielsen.

Sheffield did the damage in a tremendous 4-1 middle period, and then stonewalled the Welsh for the remaining 20 minutes.

It represented some level of revenge after twice being beaten 0-5 by Devils this term.