SHEFFIELD STEELERS are still waiting for their first Champions Hockey League win, but came close before going down 4-2 at home to JYP Jyväskylä.
Five days in Scandinavia had brought two defeats for Paul Thompson’s team, a chastening 9-1 defeat to 2014-15 CHL runners-up Frolunda Indians being followed by a 3-0 loss at the hands of last night’s visitors from Finland.
On Sunday evening at Sheffield Arena, the benefits that come with spending more time with his players were obvious for Thompson and assistant Darrell Hay as they matched their more illustrious opponents, who reached the knockout stages last season.
“I’m more disappointed for the lads than I am for myself as I felt they deserved something out of the game,” said Thompson afterwards.
“Maybe as I drive home and then watch the game again I will feel better than I do right now – we just all hate losing and right now it hurts.
“I felt we created chances, both 5 on 5 and on the powerplay - we continue to progress and the work ethic of all impresses me greatly.
“Just right now though, after the game, we are all disappointed with the result. We feel a little down because we felt we deserved better.”
It was the Steelers who deservedly held a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period, the deadlock being broken on the powerplay by GB international Robert Dowd, who was found unmarked in front of goal following some good work by Levi Nelson, the British international firing the puck past goaltender Veini Vehvilainen into the roof of the net.
Tyler Plante was called upon to make a good double save early in the second period but, shortly after, the visitors were level when Topi Nattinen squeezed the puck between the host goaltender’s legs.
Four minutes later, JYP were ahead, the Steelers having just worked hard to kill off a Zack Fitzgerald penalty, still found themselves under pressure, the puck eventually coming loose for Valtteri Hotakainen to make it 2-1.
But the Steelers rallied and hauled themselves level at 37.26, Mathieu Roy forcing the puck home to the delight of the 4,000 crowd.
A quiet start to the third produced only half chances, but with Ben O’Connor in the penalty box on a delay of game call, again the Steelers were punished when Joose Antonen couldn’t miss from two yards out when the puck broke free.
Steelers chased the game and almost drew level for a second time when Tyler Mosienko danced his way past several JYP players in the 45th minute only to be denied by Vehvilainen.
Any hope of taking something from the game disappeared, however, when, with Plante pulled after a timeout called by Thompson, JYP’s Janne Tavi fired into an empty net with just 85 seconds left on the clock.