SHEFFIELD STEELERS may remain unbeaten in their quest for the regular season Elite League title, but coach Gerad Adams has told them they “must do better.”
Last night’s 6-3 win over bottom club made it four wins from as many league games for Gerad Adams’s team and moved them up to fourth in the overall standings.
But the performance was, at times, somewhat laboured against their Scottish visitors, with a three-goal second period for the home side proving the crucial difference.
In the end it was a comfortable margin of victory, but the hosts – missing Rob Dowd (hand), Pascal Morency (concussion) and Colton Fretter (suspension) – didn’t have it all their own way initially. They found themselves 1-0 down after just 22 seconds when John Mitchell pounced for the Stars, who had come into the game on the back of a poor weekend which produced heavy defeats to Belfast Giants and Braehead Clan.
Defenceman Rod Sarich – continuing his recovery after almost three weeks out with a fractured leg bone – levelled just over a minute later only for the under-strength Stars to go ahead again at 15.50 through Rob Ricci.
A decent midweek crowd of just under 3,000 - it was the Steelers’ second in a run of three home games in just eight days - saw their team respond in positive fashion after the break, their greater urgency paying off with an equaliser through defenceman Gord Baldwin at 26.39.
The hosts got ahead for the first time on the night just over three minutes later when Mathieu Roy tipped in on the powerplay, a second goal on the man advantage following at 37.18 after good work down the left by Dustin Kohn saw the puck eventually find its way to captain Jon Phillips, who fired home past Marc Cheverie for his 400th EIHL point.
But the Stars, despite only having 12 out-skaters, continued to pester the home side and made it a one-goal game again through their own powerplay strike when good interplay between Matt Ryan and Mitchell resulted in the former firing past Frank Doyle, as Steelers’ Jay Latulippe served a roughing penalty.
The third period proved to be the quietest of the three, particularly once the Steelers went two goals clear. Tyler Mosienko finished off a flowing move at 46.24, one he had started by winning a face-off in the Steelers own zone.
An increasingly tired-looking Stars pulled Cheverie with two minutes remaining, but Doyle remained relatively untroubled before Phillips found Jay Latulippe on his own in centre ice for him to make it 6-3 with an empty net strike with just 52 seconds remaining.
“I’m really happy with the result,” said Adams. “But you can’t really sugar coat it – the start wasn’t good at all.
“It wasn’t us and we got outplayed. You could go down the list of things that we didn’t do right, but the guys were able to stick with it.”
Despite a slightly off performance at the Motorpoint Arena on Wednesday night, Adams was pleased his players were still able to dig deep and come away with both points.
“That is the sign of a good team when you are not playing at your best,” he added. “To still be able to go out there and have the confidence to score goals – that’s what we were able to do tonight.
“There are games where it can easily be lost after the first period - it’s easy to get down. But we were able to regroup.
“We do have a lot of offence and you need it on ice like that. We’ve got a lot of skill and the guys have to execute when it counts and they did that.
“It’s no fault of the players, it is sport and these things can happen and we were able to grind out the win – but the performance needs to be better on Saturday for sure.”