Unlucky 13 skaters are overpowered by Italians

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Sheffield Steelers came within an inch of upsetting the European hockey order in Denmark.

Up against Continental Cup Group D favourites Asiago, the Serie A Italian champions with 24 skaters, they twice built a lead but couldn’t hold on to it, losing in a penalty shoot-out. They still have a chance of progressing, though.

It was a strange afternoon for two players who have been under the weather. Steve Birnstill, who has been suffering a bug, scored his first of the season. While Mike Ramsay, back after a long spell out with a broken hand, missed a penalty shot, as did Jeff Legue. Steelers took the lead when Birnstill stroked in RG Flath’s rebound. Sheffield were adventurous in the middle period and Tom Squires cracked home a shot from the left.

But then a Canadian in Italian colours, Sean Bentivoglio, who played NHL with New York Islanders, got in on the act, bagging a brace in 50 seconds. Sheffield weren’t finished though and Squires set up Colt King for their third, although, again it was rubbed out by Bentivoglio. With Rod Sarich and Jonathan Phillips out injured, Steelers can credit themselves for competing so hard and it was a shame that the lottery of penalty shots went against them.

Bertivoglio and Asiago’s top scorer, American John Vigilante despatched the game-winning penalties.

Coach Ryan Finnerty said: “I’m pleased with the effort, yet disappointed because we had chances to win. We played just 4 D men and 9 forwards. Every one put more than their shift in, blocking shots, double shifting etc. The point though keeps us in contention. Today’s game against (hosts) Herning Bluefox (6pm) was always going to be a huge.”

Winger King tweeted: “The boys played well. One unlucky bounce and we we’d have had them. Thanks for the support.”