Consistency remains the key for any Sheffield Steelers success, insists Tom Barrasso

HEAD COACH Tom Barrasso says Sheffield Steelers' willingness to hold themselves more accountable needs to be maintained in order for them to pose any kind of threat to their Elite League rivals in 2019.

FACING OFF: Sheffield Steelers Ben OConnor shares a moment with Manchester Storms Shane Bakker on Saturday. Picture: Dean Woolley.

The Steelers moved themselves up to fifth in the overall standings after extending their winning streak to three games with a hard-fought 6-4 win against a dogged Manchester Storm on Saturday night.

It offers hope of an overdue run of consistency from Barrasso’s players, something they have found hard to come by all season, much to their shared frustration.

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A 6-3 loss at Glasgow Clan on December 23 prompted Barrasso to force home the message to his players that they had lost their way and that a higher standard was required.

SMART WORK: Mark Matheson, left, tips in Jonas Westerling's pass. Picture: Dean Woolley.

And after following up back-to-back wins over arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers last week with the win over Manchester, Barrasso believes he is seeing encouraging signs.

“After the Glasgow game –where we were basically horrible – the message coming back out of that was that we really needed to find our way,” said the Steelers’ head coach.

“We could not be a win one, lose one type of team. We expect better than that and need to hold ourselves more accountable and to a higher standard.

“I think the games against Nottingham were very strong and there were parts of our game against Manchester that were excellent – and there were other parts that were not as great.

Sheffield Steelers' head coach, Tom Barrasso. Picture: Hayley Roberts.

“Our performance was uneven (against Manchester). Offensively we did a lot of the things that we talk about and work on in practice, but defensively we were pretty porous.

“I’m happy to get the points, but at the end of the day that effort is not going to win us a lot of hockey games.”

Against the run of play and on a Steelers power play, Manchester took the lead at Sheffield Arena, Mike Hammond breaking free down the right before firing in a shot that saw the puck cannon off the pad of netminder Jackson Whistle and back over the line off the skate of a back-checking John Armstrong at 8.10.

It was not long before the Steelers made their power play count, however, a clever pass from Jonas Westerling finding the stick of Mark Matheson who tipped home past Matt Ginn 44 seconds later.

Sheffield Steelers' Anthony DeLuca scored a fine indivisual goal against Manchester. Picture: Dean Woolley.

A defensive lapse allowed Storm to take the lead for a second time just 61 seconds later after Dallas Ehrhardt was allowed to skate freely to the front of the net from where his shot rebounded off Whistle on to the stick of Ciaran Long, who tapped home.

Another power play goal – this time from defenceman Aaron Johnson – ensured the Steelers went in at the first break level before a more patchy second period ensued, the only goal coming from Robert Dowd at the halfway point when he reacted quickest to a rebound from Matheson’s shot.

Evan McGrath’s pinpoint finish at 44.38 gave the hosts some breathing space, but it was the first of four goals in as many minutes in a frantic spell that saw the teams trade blows.

Manchester replied at 46.08 through Luke Moffatt before a skilful individual effort from Anthony DeLuca restored the hosts’ two-goal lead at 47.02.

Rob Linsmayer then somehow squeezed the puck through Whistle at 48.40 to set up a nervous finish for the Steelers, who only secured both points when Westerling slotted home an empty-netter in the last minute.

The two meet again at Manchester’s Altrincham rink tomorrow with Barrasso expecting an equally tough test from Ryan Finnerty’s second-bottom team.

“I think they will play harder at home,” added Barrasso. “I haven’t been to the Manchester rink, I’ve only seen it on video, but it looks like it’s s slightly smaller sheet of ice so the game is a little more close, a little quicker, which probably suits what they do, which is putting pucks at the net.

“But our team should have a healthy respect for them after Saturday night’s game. They are a team that is not to be trifled with in the offensive zone, the evidence of that is backed up by the fact they put four goals in our net.”