SHEFFIELD STEELERS enjoyed a second win in as many nights over Coventry Blaze – but it still wasn’t enough to lift them into the Elite League’s top two over Christmas.
A 3-0 win for Belfast Giants over Edinburgh Capitals meant the Steelers remain two points adrift in third but with two games in hand.
Perhaps slightly more importantly, ictory at the Skydome Arena on Thursday night saw Paul Thompson’s players close the gap on leaders Cardiff Devils to eight points, the Steelers still with three games in hand and three meetings with their South Wales rivals still to come.
Colton Fretter opened the scoring on the powerplay in the 13th minute, with Mathieu Roy adding a second 15 seconds before the end of the first period.
Despite chances at both ends, both goaltenders were in fine form and it wasn’t until the 59th minute that the game was made safe through Levi Nelson’s empty-net strike. Coventry pulled one back through Barry Almeida with 26 seconds remaining, ruining Ervins Mustukovs hopes for a shutout.
While satisifed with a second win over the same opponents in the space of 24 hours, Thompson was far less impressed by the amount of time his team had to play on the penalty kill.
“We had to kill a lot of penalties tonight – 18 minutes of the game in total,” said Thompson. “But we’ve got to be smarter.
“I thought our defence and Moose (Mustukovs) were just excellent today.
“It was a gritty road win tonight and we need to find ways to win on the road like that.
“But we don’t need to press the self-destruct button. When we’re on the road we’ve got to smarten up.
“We gave them opportunitites to get back into it today but, because of our defence and our penalty killing and guys putting their bodies in the way, that is why we won the game.”
Next up for Thompson’s players is Boxing Day’s Sheffield Arena clasah with arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers. Almost 9.300 tickets have been sold for the encounter, with a handful of seats remaining.
It was a gritty road win tonight and we need to find ways to win on the road like that.Paul Thompson, Sheffield Steelers head coach.