Clark injury takes gloss off winning weekend for Steelers

DESPITE enjoying two shutouts and posting 11 goals, Sheffield Steelers’ player-coach Ryan Finnerty was still left disappointed this weekend after losing star forward Neil Clark to injury.

The 30-year-old Canadian suffered tendon damage to his ankle after falling over during the team’s usual pre-match two-touch football warm-up before Sunday night’s match against Elite League newcomers Fife Flyers.

It left an already short-benched Steelers – Finnerty and defenceman Chad Huttel were earlier ruled out – to welcome the Scottish team to the Motorpoint Arena for their first visit of the season.

Despite the injury problems, the 2010-11 regular season champions produced a second solid display of the weekend, running out 5-0 winners thanks to goals from Colt King, Ashley Tait, Jeff Legue, Tom Squires and Rod Sarich, with back-up netminder Geoff Woolhouse repeating the shut-out enjoyed by No 1 goalie John DeCaro the previous night.

DeCaro had earned his night off after stopping 23 shots from a lacklustre Hull Stingrays on Saturday.

Finnerty said Saturday’s 6-0 win over Sylvain Cloutier’s strangely subdued side was his team’s best performance of the season - by contrast, the Hull boss said the total opposite about his players.

While delighted to record two shut-outs – always a cause for celebration – Finnerty admitted the on-ice success had been tempered by the loss of Clark, who will undergo further tests on Monday to determine the full extent of his injury.

“Clarky is going to be a big loss for us,” said Finnerty. “He’s been playing really well and contributing lots of goals. It was just one of those freak accidents that happens - we weren’t doing anything we wouldn’t normally do.

“Any time you don’t concede as a team you’ve got to be pleased and to do it on both nights was reward for the hard work we put in last week on our ‘D’.”

“I thought the Hull game saw us put in our most complete performance of the season so far. We made it really hard for Hull to generate anything in terms of offence and we had some great puck possession.

“It was also great to see Woolly get a shut-out. I don’t really believe in putting your back-up goalie in halfway through games.

“We decided to give John (DeCaro) a rest, but when we’ve got quality like Geoff as back-up we’ll never have any worries.

“We were down to the bare bones against Fife, with four ‘D’ and eight forwards, but the guys played so well.”

Doubles for Tait and Mike Ramsay, together with strikes for Clark and Finnerty had put paid to Hull’s chances in Sheffield, as the visitors continued the disappointing form they had produced the previous Sunday, which saw them require a shoot-out to defeat Fife.

Finnerty said the back injury which kept him out of the Fife game would not stop him returning to the ice for next Saturday’s home encounter with Coventry,

SHEFFIELD Steeldogs emerged from the second weekend of the EPL season still on top after a third win of the season.

Andre Payette’s side could count themselves unlucky to lose 3-2 on the road at Basingstoke on Saturday night before returning home to Ice Sheffield on Sunday to post an impressive 4-2 victory against Milton Keynes Lightning.

The Lightning had arrived in Sheffield on the back of an impressive 5-2 victory over defending regular season champions Manchester Phoenix, who responded on home ice by defeating Swindon Wildcats 3-2.

The weekend leaves both the Steeldogs and Manchester locked on six points, but the South Yorkshire club currently have a better goal difference.

Twitter: @philarra