SHEFFIELD Steelers salvaged what started out as a disappointing opening Elite League weekend with a 4-3 win on a shoot-out at Cardiff Devils.
Gerad Adams’s side had caused something of an upset at the Motorpoint Arena on Saturday night when they headed home to South Wales on the back of a 4-2 triumph over the Steelers.
Head coach Ryan Finnerty branded his side’s display as “unacceptable” and got the response he was looking for 24 hours later when his players secured two points at a rink regarded by many as the toughest in the league to visit,
But it required nerves of steel from new signings Colin Shields and Corey Pecker to deliver a maximum haul in the second round of a tense penalty shoot-out after overtime ended all-square at 3-3.
Mac Faulkner had given Cardiff a 13th-minute lead before Steelers’ captain Jonathan Phillips levelled against his former club 10 seconds before the first period break.
Corey Pecker’s 22nd-minute powerplay strike gave Steelers the lead before Phillips struck again at 42.18. But two more goals from Faulkner - his third a 52nd-minute powerplay strike - took the game into overtime and then a shoot-out, where Pecker and Shields proved the difference.
“That was a lot better,” said Finnerty. “We played a lot more like I know we can play.
“We got some big performances out of some of our big players in Cardiff and the second period was the best we have played all year.
“I couldn’t get Tylor Michel out on the ice enough tonight – his line with Hewitt and Phillips was our best line all weekend. They can only score goals by outworking the other team and they again did that.
“Overall I’m satisfied with tonight (Sunday). There was pressure on the guys after the way we played on Saturday. They responded well, they bounced back and showed a lot of character.”
On Saturday, second period goals from Drew Fata (powerplay) and Lee Esders cancelled out an eighth-minute Max Birbraer strike. But third-period goals from Phil Hill, Stuart MacRae and Ben Davies ensured the Steelers ended the night with nothing.
Hull Stingrays’ player-coach Sylvain Cloutier was full of praise for young British netminder Ben Bowns after his man-of-the-match display in Saturday night’s 4-2 Challenge Cup defeat at home to Nottingham Panthers.
Tomas Valecko and Jason Silverthorn were on target for Stingrays, but Nottingham took both points through goals from Matt Francis (2), Bruce Graham, and Pat Galivan.
But Bowns impressed on his competitive debut for Hull, making 40 saves against an offensively-gifted Panthers side, much to the delight of Cloutier.
“We knew what Bownsy could do,” said Cloutier. “He is a tall goalie and he stood tall against a very good Panthers side.
“He made some great saves and it was a very good performance – we know what Ben is capable of.”
Coventry Blaze head the early overall league table, having won both of their opening games – Saturday’s 3-2 win on a shoot-out at Dundee Stars being followed by a 4-3 win over Fife Flyers on Sunday. Cardiff lie third courtesy of the point they took from their second meeting with the Steelers.
Sheffield Steeldogs won their ‘War of the Roses’ clash with fierce rivals Manchester Phoenix after drawing the second leg 0-0 last night.
It followed a 4-3 home win for Andre Payette’s team in Thursday night’s first leg.
Sunday – Elite League: Coventry Blaze 4 Fife Flyers 3, Nottingham Panthers 5 Dundee Stars 1, Cardiff Devils 3 Sheffield Steelers 4 (SO).
Challenge Cup, Group A: Edinburgh Capitals 4 Braehead Clan 3 (OT).
Saturday – Elite League: Dundee Stars 2 Coventry Blaze 3 (SO), Sheffield Steelers 2 Cardiff Devils 4.
Challenge Cup, Group A: Braehead Clan 3 Belfast Giants 2, Fife Flyers 2 Edinburgh Capitals 0.
Group B: Hull Stingrays 2 Nottingham Panthers 4.