Thomas cracker earns victory over old enemy

Mark Thomas is one step ahead of David Clarke
Mark Thomas is one step ahead of David Clarke
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Sheffield Steelers... 3 Nottingham Panthers ...2 (Sunday) Braehead Clan...2 Steelers...4 (Saturday)

A tired and weary Steelers had returned from fog-bound Scotland at 3am yesterday to find pop star Rihanna was still holding court in their Sheffield Arena dressing rooms.

As much as some of the (unmarried) players would probably give a month’s salary for an evening with the Barbadian R&B beauty, after a foggy five hour journey from Scotland, and with sweaty kit bags to unpack, it was not what they wanted.

Panthers, meanwhile, were enjoying the luxury of a night off.

Yet it was Sheffield who had the extra spring in their step as they scored with their first shift on the first attack. The game was just 48 seconds old when Ashley Tait scored the 1,000th Steeler goal at the Arena.

Tait has not found the net in the last 10 games, but he nipped the puck cheekily inside Craig Kowalski’s near post.

Kowalski has shut Steelers out twice this year, but ‘K-Wall’ was breached again at 9.30 when Tait collected another pass from Jeff Legue to smash in again.

The goals were proper reward for a first period which saw some dogged teamwork from the home side and some excellent cameo appearances. Colt King, an authentic power winger who has really found his feet now, RG Flath at centre, and, of course, old man Tait, who looks more like 26 than 36.

But all the early promise was neutralised by a middle session; there was only one team in it and that was Nottingham.

The visitors took advantage of Matt Stephenson’s five minute penalty (for fighting Steve Lee) and scored twice in three minutes. Jordan Fox was lucky to see his deflection spurt through John DeCaro’s legs and then a super pass from David Beauregard set up an equaliser for Danny Meyers.

Nottingham could have won the game in the third stanza. Robert Lachowicz had a goal disallowed, Jeff Heerema hit the post and David Clarke back-handed over with the goal at his mercy.

But Sheffield hung on and took their chance in the sudden death overtime.

The hero was Mark Thomas - the defenceman who had done such a good job irritatiing Brandon Benedict all night.

He shrugged off his tiredness and defensive duties, roamed forward and scored a cracking winner.

The win was a little flattering - but Steelers will take it.

Steelers executed a near perfect road game to grab the points in Glasgow on Saturday.

They smashed in four goals in the second session and then conserved energy in the final period. Legue was in unstoppable form, scoring a straight hat-trick. They followed the example shown by player coach Ryan Finnerty.

Sheffield’s second interval team talk must have been all about sensible defence; in fact they summoned up just five shots of their own on Jaakko Suomalainen 27.

They did drop a clanger when Canadian centre Mick Bayrack scored a shorthanded goal at 53.13 and the same player added a late second during a 5-on-3.