Sheffield Steelers 6
Coventry Blaze 3
STEELERS’ changing room has reverberated to the sound of words beginning with ‘F’ and ‘S’ over the holiday period. And not much of that has included: ‘Festive and Santa.’
Christmas had left a hangover of poor results, so last night Sheffield were hoping to start the New Year with some glad tidings.
The club had slipped to fourth in the table after twice losing to Nottingham Panthers and slipped out of the Challenge Cup. On top of that, there’s been an obvious disquiet about the fundementals of this side - player coach Ryan Finnerty wrestling with the fact his defence can be hesitant.
So last night’s match was important not just for points; but a chance to regain third spot from Blaze, who had leapfrogged them 24 hours earlier. They succeeded with a decent performance and six goals.
The omens had been good. Steelers have not been beaten by them in their previous 11 meetings.
And, after an uncomfortable start, Colt King powered over the blue line and smashed a shot over the bar. It rocketed back off the back plexi-glass straight to King, who tucked it away.
Six minutes later, at 8;34, Blaze were back in it, though. Feisty American Bryan Jurynec shrugged off his marker, piroutted, and struck the puck low past John DeCaro.
The frustration of a defence that has been conceding too many was illustrated by Matt Stephenson, who vented his rage by splintering his stick on DeCaro’s bar.
Sheffield looked vulnerable as Woo-Sung Park and Mike McClean threatened.
But at 17;46 Luke Fulghum scored his second against his old team, since swapping sides.
Finnerty’s interval team-talk did its job; Steelers were more potent and, had it not been for an extraordinary performance from goalie Peter Hirsch, would have netted a hatful.
Finnerty added to his dressing room directions by placing the puck directly in Fulghum’s path for 3-1, at 21;48. Sixty seconds later a poor pass from Matic Kralj was penalised as Jeff Legue’s shot off crashed in off the bar.
Coventry boss Paul Thompson ordered a Time Out to reverse the tide and he too had an influence, with Owen Fussey scoring on the game’s first Power Play.
But, in truth, it was only Thompson’s great Dane, Hirsch that prevented Sheffield running riot.
Coventry chased the game in the last session but were caught out when Stephenson made it 5-2.
And while Fussey scored a fluke off DeCaro’s skate, Mike Ramsay saw justice done with a breakaway goal.