PAUL THOMPSON admitted to having mixed feelings after a weekend that produced contrasting fortunes for his Sheffield Steelers.
Having heavily criticised his team despite a come-from-behind league win over Dundee Stars in midweek, the Steelers’ head coach got the reaction he was looking for when they deservedly beat long-time rivals Nottingham Panthers 3-2 to round off their Challenge Cup group phase campaign.
But, back in the Elite League last night at his former club Coventry Blaze Th0mpson cut a frustrated figure after his team – missing forwards Jordan Owens and Robert Dowd – came out on the wrong end of a 5-2 scoreline.
On balance, there was more to be positive about across the 48 hours, particularly with the arrival of new forward Ryan Martindale – who scored on his debut against the Panthers – as well as the tenacious Tanner Eberle finally finding his scoring touch.
“I think as a team over the weekend we moved forward,” said Thompson. “Saturday was a great performance against the Panthers and, here in Coventry, was a gutsy performance – although we probably shot ourselves in the foot after working our way back into the game.
“We know we are lacking offensively.
“We lost Jordan Owens who missed the Blaze game and of course we are still without Dowdy.
“I like what I see in our new guy, Ryan Martindale, but having had the long travel on the Saturday ahead of the Nottingham game, he was exhausted come the final period.”
Defenceman David Phillips put the Steelers ahead at 2.26, only for Coventry to pull level through Chris Joyaux in the 17th minute.
The Blaze carried their momentum into the second period, with Alex Nikiforuk nudging them ahead just 15 seconds after the restart, only for the Steelers to level through Eberle at 37.41.
I think as a team over the weekend we moved forward. Saturday was a great performance against the Panthers and, here in Coventry, was a gutsy performance – although we probably shot ourselves in the foot after working our way back into the game.Sheffield Steelers’ head coach, Paul Thompson.
A late second period power play opportunity proved crucial, however, when Justin Hache restoring Coventry’s lead just over a minute after Eberle’s strike.
The Steelers pushed hard in the final period but were hit by a sucker-punch when Jake Handsen made it 4-2 at 55.04, before adding his second with an empty net strike in the closing seconds.
Steelers were well worth their win over Nottingham the previous night – goals from Ryan Martinelli, Martindale and Eberle enough to hold off a third period rally from the visitors, who hit back through two goals from Alex Guptill.