Changes afoot as Thompson eyes formula for success at Sheffield Steelers

Sheffield Steelers defenceman Mark Matheson, left and Zack Fitzgerald help defend the net in Coventry. Picture: Scott Wiggins

SHEFFIELD STEELERS’ head coach Paul Thompson is actively scouring the market after admitting his team isn’t “good enough.”

Another poor start by the five-time champions proved costly last night when they were trounced 5-1 at Coventry Blaze – swift revenge for the Midlanders following their 5-2 defeat in Sheffield the previous night.

Having looked so promising in the first couple of weeks of the 2017-18 campaign, the Steelers have encountered a number of bumps in the road, so much so that injury replacement Juha Koivisto is set to be replaced himself after failing to impress during his short stay.

Last night, the Steelers were down and out before 10 minutes was up, 3-0 down through strikes from Adam Courchaine, Marc-Olivier Vallerand and Ben Lake.

A second-period goal from Danick Paquette was followed in the 46th minute by Ryan Dingle’s shorthanded effort, with John Armstrong’s reply in the 55th minute providing scant consolation.

“We got what we deserved, we were out-played and out-worked all night,” said Thompson. “It simply isn’t good enough. We all know that. Our chemistry isn’t right. It’s something that has worried me over the last few games and we just aren’t good enough right now – that is plain to see.

Sheffield Steelers' head coach, Paul Thompson Picture: Dean Woolley. September 2017

“We are certainly in the market – we won’t stand still and let this continue.”

On Saturday, the Steelers eventually secured what appeared a comfortable 5-2 victory, although it was anything but that for the baulk of the 60 minutes.

Twice the Steelers got themselves ahead, twice Danny Stewart’s team pegged them back – both goals coming from former Steelers forward Luke Ferrara.

But, eventually, when Robert Dowd pinged in his own rebound at 45.39, there was to be no way back for the visitors, although they came within inches of doing so for a third time – twice hitting the post before the Steelers eventually made the game safe

Our chemistry isn’t right. It’s something that has worried me over the last few games and we just aren’t good enough right now – that is plain to see.

Sheffield Steelers’ head coach, Paul Thompson.

That came when, with a little over two minutes remaining, defenceman Joonas Ronnberg smacked in a powerplay goal from the left wing with Blaze netminder Kevin Nastiuk scrambling back across his crease. Just over a minute later, captain Jonathan Phillips added an empty net strike from inside his own zone.

Earlier, Matt Marquardt forced the puck home on the powerplay in front of the net against his former club to give the hosts a seventh-minute lead, although the Blaze were level within four minutes through Ferrara, who has settled into life quickly at Coventry since Steelers’ head coach Paul Thompson decided – with some reluctance – to release him in the summer.

Steelers got their noses in front again early in the second after Dowd’s initial shot was saved by Nastiuk with the puck falling kindly to line-mate Andreas Valdix, who lifted the rebound into the roof of the net.

But the Blaze refused to lie down, Ben Lake in particular proving a tricky customer, and they actually outshot their hosts 26-18 over the first 40 minutes, a statistic which alone ensured they went in after the second period level.

Sheffield Steelers defenceman Zack Fitzgerald, left, exchanges a few pleasantries with Coventry Blaze forward Kevin Noble. Picture: Dean Woolley

A bad line change left Ferrara bearing down on Steelers’ netminder Ervins Mustukovs in only for Mark Matheson to be harshly adjudged to have hauled the 24-year-old back, resulting in a penalty shot.

Up stepped Ferrara to coolly dispatch the puck past his former team-mate.

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