COACH Doug Christiansen said a sense of growing belief from supporters helped Sheffield Steelers get over the finish line in a dramatic 5-4 overtime victory over Coventry Blaze.
Robert Dowd’s breakaway goal on a delayed penalty call sent the Motorpoint Arena faithful into raptures after they had been forced to witness their team come back from a nightmare start which saw them 3-0 down inside just nine minutes.
After finally pulling themselves level early in the third period, Christiansen’s team had to come from behind once more before clinching the extra point in their eighth straight win at home.
While praising the character of his players for showing such resolve, he said it was clear they had been lifted by the support and, more importantly, patience shown by the home crowd after such a nightmarish start.
“I know it sounds like a stupid little thing and I know that these guys are professionals and all of that, but when they know the crowd believes in them still, it makes a huge difference,” said Christiansen. “It’s that belief in the building that really helps the players as it allows them to continue pushing and allows them to be aggressive. And when you’re down 3-0 that’s what you have to be.
“I think earlier in the year the crowd might have been all over the team. But on Saturday, they got behind them and that is so important.”
The visitors – coming into the game on the back of a four-game winless streak – had opened the scoring on the powerplay at 2.39 from the stick of Kenny Kallstrom.
WATCH video highlights of all the goals from Steelers’ 5-4 overtime win against Coventry by clicking the PLAY button at the top of this page.
Then, two goals in 31 seconds silenced the home crowd, the first coming from Michael Devin at 7.49 on the powerplay and then from Shea Guthrie at 8.20.
But the Steelers refused to lie down and remained patient, eventually netting two quick-fire goals of their own just 19 seconds apart to get right back into the game before the end of the first period.
Both goals came on the powerplay, the first from defenceman Gord Baldwin at 17.40 before captain Steven Goertzen drove the net to prod the puck home at 17.59.
Christiansen believed his team did enough to draw level in the second period but it remained goalless until just over four minutes into the third when Tim Spencer restored parity, again on the powerplay.
All that hard work looked like being undone, however, when the visitors regained the lead at 46.38, Adam Henrich pouncing on a rebound from netminder Frank Doyle to make it 4-3.
Again patience paid off for the home side, particularly when Jeff Legue’s precise pass found Baldwin all alone for another powerplay strike to level the scores.
GB international Dowd then completed the job when he evaded the attentions of Cale Tanaka as he broke down the ice to fire high into the net past Mike Zacharias’s left glove.
The win briefly took Steelers into second behind Belfast Giants in the Elite League but Dundee Stars went above them following their 4-2 win at Fife Flyers last night, leaving the South Yorkshire club in third, 15 points adrift of the leaders, who thumped Cardiff Devils 11-4.
“We were really, really bad in thet first 10 minutes,” admitted Christiansen. “I don’t think we can hide from that - we weren’t doing the little things right. “It seemed that the puck was a tennis ball, bouncing around all over the place and off our sticks.
“But the character they (my players) showed to come from behind twice in that third period is what good teams do and we’re a decent team right now.”
Sunday: Cardiff Devils 4 Belfast Giants 11, Coventry Blaze 3 Nottingham Panthers 5, Dundee Stars 4 Fife Flyers 2, Edinburgh Capitals 3 Hull Stingrays 4 (SO)
Saturday: Belfast Giants 7 Cardiff Devils 2, Braehead Clan 3 Hull Stingrays 4 (SO), Fife Flyers 4 Dundee Stars 3 (PS), Nottingham Panthers 5 Edinburgh Capitals 2, Sheffield Steelers 5 Coventry Blaze 4 (OT).