THERE may have been a few nerves floating around, but Gerad Adams’s first weekend in charge of Sheffield Steelers could hardly have gone much better.
Parachuted in last week by owner Tony Smith to replace the axed Doug Christiansen, Adams immediately endeared himself to the Steelers’ faithful by steering his new team to a 3-2 win at arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers on Saturday before making it a maximum points haul for the weekend with a dominant victory over his former club Cardiff Devils 24 hours later.
With only three weekends of the Elite League’s regular season remaining, Adams knows he has to work quickly to turn an inconsistent team into potential winners of the play-offs – the only silverware now available to them.
If successful – or at the very least if positive progress is witnessed by Smith over the next few weeks – Adams, a double winner as a player in South Yorkshire in 2003-04, should find himself leading his former club for much longer than until the end of the current campaign, something that would clearly interest him.
“I was really nervous going out there,” said Adams following the convincing 6-2 win on home ice over Cardiff.
“But once it settled, it was a comfortable spot for me and I think it’s a job that is mine. And, over the next few weeks, if we can get the performances to match these then there could be a contract for next year.
“But I’m not going to worry about that for the moment, I’m just going to work to the best of my ability and, when I do that, that’s when positive things can happen.”
Jason Hewitt led the way against Cardiff with a man-of-the-match performance – scoring two goals – with further strikes coming from Max Lacroix, Danny Meyers, Phil Hill and Chris Blight.
On Saturday, it required nerves of steel in a shoot-out to come away with both points from Nottingham, a result which, together with the Cardiff triumph, puts Steelers firmly in the boxseat to finish as overall runners-up.
They had to do it the hard way though, trailing after the first period to goals from Matt Francis and David Clarke. Tim Spencer halved the deficit at 36.01 before Stefan Meyer’s leveller with just under three minutes remaining sent the game into overtime and then the shoot-out, where Blight and Lacroix scored the vital goals for the visitors.
Hull Stingrays’ outside hopes of winning the Gardiner Conference were dealt a further blow on Saturday when they lost 2-1 at home to Dundee Stars, the team now clear favourites to win the northern group.
Combined with wins for Coventry Blaze and Fife Flyers, it all added up to a bad night for Sylvain Cloutier’s team, who now face a fight to make the play-offs.
But Cardiff’s heavy defeat in Sheffield – together with Coventry going down 4-1 at home to league champions Belfast Giants – will have helped Hull’s cause considerably.
The meeting with Fife in Hull on Wednesday, March 12 seems to take on more importance with each passing week.
Stingrays, who had won 11 of their last 13 games at home, are now two points behind Stars with just two conference fixtures left while their rivals still have five to play.
It was a sixth loss to Stars in seven meetings this season, with all of them – including last week’s 1-0 defeat on Tayside – decided by one goal.
Stingrays only win against Dundee was a 4-2 success on hime ice in January and, although the two have one more meeting to come – in Dundee on Saturday, March 15 – it is clearly Dundee’s conference to lose, particularly after third-placed Braehead Clan suffered a 2-0 defeat at bottom club Edinburgh Capitals on Sunday night.
In a tight encounter, it was Brock McPherson who grabbed the go-ahead goal for the Stars at 36.25.
Jason Silverthorn tied the game for Stingrays with a powerplay marker at 48.21, only for Jack MacLellan to restore the visitors’ lead just 28 seconds later.
Carl Lauzon hit a post for Stingrays, who also pulled goaltender Ben Bowns and called a time-out in an attempt to force overtime, but it all proved in vain.