Sheffield Steelers’ Colton Fretter hit with six-game ban after independent EIHL review

BIG HIT: Sheffield Steelers' Colton Fretter, left, retaliates against Belfast Giants' Spiro Goulakos in last Sunday's EIHL clash at Sheffield Arena. Picture: Dean Woolley.
BIG HIT: Sheffield Steelers' Colton Fretter, left, retaliates against Belfast Giants' Spiro Goulakos in last Sunday's EIHL clash at Sheffield Arena. Picture: Dean Woolley.
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SHEFFIELD STEELERS will have to make do without talismanic forward Colton Fretter for six games after an independent review upgraded his punishment for attacking Belfast Giants’ defenceman Spiro Goulakos.

Trouble flared during the third period of last Sunday’s clash between the two sides at Sheffield Arena when both players were ejected from the game.

Fretter took exception to what he felt was an illegal check from behind by Goulakos that wasn’t called by the match officials. After picking himself up, he skated after his unsuspecting opponent and attacked him from behind, knocking him to the ice.

The Steelers’ star was initially given a one-match ban by the Elite League’s Department of Player Safety (DOPS) after his offence was amended to charging, while Goulakos was given three games for kicking out at Fretter while he was under attack.

The punishments caused uproar among fans and both current and former players across social media and on Wednesday EIHL officials insitgated an independent review of the incidents.

Lyle Seitz, former NHL linesman Lyle Seitz was called in, along with members of the IIHF’s Player Safety Committee (PSC), a global body established for overseeing player safety and discipline for a number of leagues throughout the hockey world.

As a result, Fretter has seen his punishment upped to six games, after it was determined that he showed “a wilful negligence act of intent to cause injury, intending to affect the game by making illegal and/or unsuspecting contact.”

Goulakos saw his three-game ban reduced to two games after the review panel felt his kick at Fretter was “not intentional, but rather in self-defence.”

The Giants defenceman also saw his five-plus Game Misconduct penalty handed out by DOPS earlier in the week quashed by the review panel, who deemed the hit he made on Fretter a “legal body check”.

Seitz and the PSC have agreed to continue to look at discipplinary incidents for the EIHL an emergency board meeting takes place on November 8 to discuss DOPS and Refereeing.

Simon Kirkham, the EIHL’s head of referees, is the man to pay the price for the controversy, being removed as the head of DOPS with immediate effect.

The Steelers put off-ice issues to one side on Friday night to maintain their 100 per cent record in the group stages of the Challenge Cup, winning 3-2 in overtime at Braehead Clan.

With Fretter out and fellow forward Mathieu Roy rested, Paul Thompson’s team took the lead through departing Finnish defenceman Joonas Ronnberg at 8.34.

The hosts levelled on the powerplay through Tyler Scofield within 37 seconds of the second period starting, only for the Steelers to regain their one-goal lead thanks to Ben O’Connor’s strike on the man advantage at 27.41.

Mike Embach hauled the Clan level for a second time early in the third, but Levi Nelson ensured it was five wins from five games in Group A for the Steelers with the winning strike just over halfway through overtime.

The Steelers take on Fife Flyers in Kirkcaldy in the league on Saturday before heading home to host Braehead on Sunday evening at Ice Sheffield (6pm).