SURE it was far from pretty at times but, ultimately, Sheffield Steelers were effective in securing a vital New Year’s Eve win over a stubborn Manchester Storm.
It required a late powerplay goal from Levi Nelson to secure both points which, on the balance of play, Steelers deserved - just.
With two keenly-fought Challenge Cup games already fought out between the two sides this season, Steelers’ head coach Paul Thompson was justifiably cautious about an opponent who arrived in South Yorkshire just four points behind his own team and on the back of recent wins on the road at Cardiff Devils and Belfast Giants.
But the hosts - hurt by a pair of 3-2 defeats to arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers earlier in the week - got the job done, ensuring that Storm boss Omar Pacha must continue to wait for a first win as a player-coach over the Steelers.
That wait may only be for 24 hours as the Steelers trek across the Pennines on Sunday to Altrincham Ice Arena to face off against the same opponents.
The result was all that mattered in Sheffield, however, although it wasn’t until just under five minutes into the second period that the deadlock was broken, Guillaume Desbiens making a 5-on-3 powerplay count when he poked home following quick work from Ben O’Connor and Mathieu Roy with Paul Swindlehurst and Dallas Ehrhardt in the box.
That is how it remained until the third period in what was proving a frustratingly scrappy affair for both teams.
Manchester pulled level in controversial circumstances with just over 10 remaining. As Yared Hagos’s two-minute spell in the box came to an end, Desbiens seemed to be impeded by Storm goaltender Mike Clemente as he attempted to track back following the breakdown of a Steelers’ attack.
Hagos came out of the box, but it was too late as, with Desbiens trailing the play, the extra man told for the visitors when Darian Dziurzynski swept home a feed from Connor Varley.
The frustration understandably increased for the Steelers and overtime looked inevitable until a hooking call was made on Storm’s Mark Heatley with just over two minutes remaining.
It proved a pivotal moment as, just over a minute into the subsequent powerplay, Levi Nelson forced the puck home into the roof of the net allowing notable relief all around the building and leaving Pacha to contemplate another one against the Steelers that got away. For now.