‘Mission accomplished’ - How Sheffield Steelers enjoyed weekend of maximum return

ON TARGET: Sheffield Steelers' John Armstrong got omn the scoresheet in the second period against Dundee Stars. Picture: Dean Woolley.
ON TARGET: Sheffield Steelers' John Armstrong got omn the scoresheet in the second period against Dundee Stars. Picture: Dean Woolley.
  • Wins against Nottingham and Dundee move defending champions up to second in the overall EIHL standings
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THEY may have done it the hard way, but Sheffield Steelers emerged from their latest Elite League weekend with a maximum return.

Paul Thompson’s side headed north to Dundee Stars last night in good heart having thrashed arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers 8-1 on Saturday night.

A week earlier, the Steelers had returned from a previous trip to Tayside having suffered a 4-0 defeat. And while it was to prove another tough night against Marc Lefebvre’s team, a 5-4 win after a penalty shoot-out went the way of the visitors.

The Steelers were behind after less than two minutes when Brett Switzer pounced, although Mike Ratchuk levelled at 9.56.

The visitors emerged at the start of the third period 3-2 ahead when strikes from Zack Fitzgerald and John Armstrong were separated by Kevin Hart’s effort for the hosts.

Dundee levelled through Switzer at 45.03 before Colton Fretter restored his side’s one-goal lead at 54.15.

But, less than two minutes later, Justin Faryna’s powerplay strike ensured overtime was required and when that proved goalless, it was left to Jesse Schultz and Andreas Valdix to secure the extra point in the subsequent shoot-out, with goaltender Ervins Mustukovs denying Dundee’s Mikael Lidhammar and Joey Sides.

Afterwards, Thompson said preparation had bheen the key to his team’s double delight, particularly after Dundee had shut them out the previous Sunday.

“We started work on this weekend last Tuesday,” explained head coach Thompson. “Our preparation began then for both games and we achieved what we set out to do.

“Tonight wasn’t as fluid as Saturday but maybe that was to be expected. We led three times tonight but somehow then ended up killing penalty after penalty – it’s a different game up here thats for sur. We did get one powerplay but must have killed eight minutes alone in the second period.”

CHIPPING IN: Zack Fitzgerald  grabbed a second-period goal against Dundee. Picture: Dean Woolley.

CHIPPING IN: Zack Fitzgerald grabbed a second-period goal against Dundee. Picture: Dean Woolley.

After the obligatory long coach ride up prior to the encounter, Thompson was aware they were in for another tough test against a team who had endured a difficult start to the campaign and went into the game bottom of the overall standings.

“We dug in deep against a good Dundee side,” added Thompson. “Their players played hard for their coach and team. They are a talented group and if they can play with the same energy and focus as they did tonight then this will be a very tough place for all clubs to come to.”

Next weekend sees the Steelers stay local with two home games, with Cardiff Devils the first to visit Sheffield Arena on Friday (7.30pm) before Belfast Giants call in 48 hours later (5pm).

We started work on this weekend last Tuesday. Our preparation began then for both games and we achieved what we set out to do.

Paul Thompson, Sheffield Steelers’ head coach.