SHEFFIELD Steelers’ player-coach Ryan Finnerty admitted his team had suffered a “reality check” after their double festive setback against Nottingham Panthers, but remains confident of his team bouncing back to maintain their Elite League title challenge.
If Finnerty had been asked to describe a worst-case scenario from his team’s double header against Nottingham, it would probably have been pretty close to what actually happened over the two days.
The Steelers may still have five games in hand over the Panthers and remain just six points behind, but there is no doubt Corey Neilson’s side have the upper hand over them this season.
In the six meetings between them this campaign, Nottingham have come out on top five times, the latest the most comprehensive to date – Tuesday night’s 5-1 hammering of their arch-rivals at the National Ice Centre coming just 24 hours after they had left Sheffield with a 5-3 Boxing Day triumph.
The two sides don’t meet again until February 18 and 19, possibly much to the relief of some of their fans.
But after seeing his team concede 10 goals in two games to one of their regular season title rivals, Finnerty insisted he had faith in his current roster, although there is a strong suggestion changes may still be made in the coming weeks.
“This is a reality check for sure, but that’s all it is,” said Finnerty. ”We are still a good, strong hockey club.
“We are still in an excellent position and we are still looking for good players to help kick us on should they become available.”
“Nottingham seem to have our number and, to be honest, I don’t know why. It may be a mental thing, some guys thinking we just can’t beat them. Well, they will have to get that thought out of their heads.”
After a goalless first period in Nottingham, Matt Myers broke the deadlock at 22.14, Matt Francis making it 2-0.
Mike Ramsay halved the deficit at 28.40, but the home side took a two-goal lead into the second break after David-Alexandre Beauregard netted his 25th goal of the season at 36.48.
Any hopes Steelers had of a third-period comeback were dashed when Myers scored his second of the night 14 seconds after the restart. Francis added his second in the 57th minute.
HULL Stingrays went down 5-2 at Coventry Blaze ahead of Wednesday night’s rematch in East Yorkshire (7.30pm).
In-form forward Jereme Tendler found the target again but that was a rare highlight for Sylvain Cloutier’s team at the home of the club run by the same ownership team.
Owen Fussey and Bryan Jurynec had put Blaze 2-0 ahead at the end of the first period, before Dustin Wood stretched their lead on the powerplay at 26.25.
Tendler pulled one back for Stingrays in the within a minute with his 24th of the season - leaving him third in the goal-scoring list overall - only for Greg Owen (powerplay) to restore Blaze’s three-goal cushion, again on the powerplay at 36.16.
Shea Guthrie made it 5-1 early in the third and, although Dominic Osman scored a second for Stingrays just under three minutes later, helped by 16-year-old Bobby Chamberlain claiming an assist for his first point at this level, that was as close as Hull could get.
Hull will get a chance to earn a first victory of the season over Coventry when the two sides lock horns at Hull Arena on Wednesday night.
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IN the EPL, Sheffield Steeldogs went down 5-4 after penalty shots at Manchester Phoenix.
Andre Payette’s side will next be in action on Friday when they welcome Peterborough Phantoms to Ice Sheffield (face-off 7.45pm).
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