Battling Sheffield Steelers prove their point the hard way

WINNING RETURN: Sheffield Steelers Jonathan Phillips battles for possession against Braeheads Matt Haywood. Picture: Dean Woolley.
WINNING RETURN: Sheffield Steelers Jonathan Phillips battles for possession against Braeheads Matt Haywood. Picture: Dean Woolley.
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SHEFFIELD STEELERS scrapped their way back to winning ways over the weekend, maintaining their 100 per cent record in the Challenge Cup with two one-goal wins.

First came a 3-2 success over arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers at the National Ice Centre on Saturday night – courtesy of goals from Robert Dowd (2) and Matt Marquardt – before a win by the same scoreline saw them pick up another two points against visiting Braehead Clan.

It sees the Steelers as clear leaders in Group A with four wins from four.

All the scoring in Sheffield came within a remarkable seven-minute time-frame last night, the Steelers edging themselves in front through John Armstrong, who got the final touch on a strike from Colton Fretter at 32.25 on the powerplay.

Just over five minutes had elapsed when the hosts put themselves 2-0 ahead through captain Jonathan Phillips, who buried a rebound effort at 37.27.

But the Clan stormed back and were level with two goals in as many minutes, the first coming when Ville Hämäläinen scrambled one in from close range at 39.06, with goal-line video technology required to confirm it had in fact crossed the line.

CLOSE CALL: Sheffield Steelers' Ben O'Connor, far right, and Matt Marquardt put the Braehead goal under pressure on Sunday night. Picture: Dean Woolley.

CLOSE CALL: Sheffield Steelers' Ben O'Connor, far right, and Matt Marquardt put the Braehead goal under pressure on Sunday night. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Only 17 seconds had elapsed before the visitors were level when Ryan Potulny beat Ervins Mustukovs in the Steelers’ goal.

But a mad minute ended with Andreas Valdix’s shot flying past Braehead goaltender Ryan Nie at 39.45 for what proved to be the winning goal.

It was a similarly edgy affair 24 hours earlier in the East Midlands as the Steelers faced the Panthers looking to bounce back from a demoralising 5-1 league defeat at Coventry Blaze the previous Sunday.

Former Blaze winger Marquardt continued his recent scoring streak since returning from injury when he put the Steelers ahead in the 13th minute, Dowd doubling the advantage late in the period to put the visitors in control.

Nottingham hit back early in the second period through Zack Phillips, but a late powerplay goal from Dowd restored the Steelers’ two-goal cushion.

Josh Shalla struck for the Panthers seven minutes from the end, but Mustukovs and the Steelers’ defence held firm to seal the points.