NO matter how exhilirating their last-gasp win against Nottingham Panthers was on Saturday night, Sheffield Steelers’ players will wake up this morning with a chronic, empty feeling.
Just under 24 hours later, in the same building as Saturday night’s thrilling 5-4 win over their arch-rivals, the Steelers managed to twice throw away a three-goal lead before ending up on the wrong end of a potentially season-defining 7-5 defeat at the hands of Manchester Storm.
There are still 17 Elite League games left in which Paul Thompson’s team can close the 14-point gap on leaders Cardiff Devils – but what was already a narrow window of opportunity is closing fast, even with four meetings still to come against the title favourites.
In short, Steelers need help from elsewhere, particularly after failing to make their significant advantage count twice against a side coached by former player and coach Ryan Finnerty.
Two powerplay goals in the space of just over two minutes from Mathieu Roy gave Steelers an early lead through the opening stages of the game, with Joonas Westerling adding a third goal for the home side in the 13th minute.
Mike Hammond continued his goal scoring streak to get Manchester on the board before the end of the period, however, with Andrew McKinney adding a second goal for the visitors two minutes after the restart.
The hosts looked to have pulled away again when captain Jonathan Phillips quickly responded for the Steelers before Roy completed his hat trick to make it 5-2.
But a second of the game for Hammond ensured the Storm stayed within touching distance and when Luke Moffatt converted on the powerplay in the 36th minute it was game on.
Moffatt added a second just 12 seconds into the final frame to level the scores before completing his own hat-trick in the 48th minute. Dane Byers’s goal midway through the period proved to be the final one of the game, capping off a great comeback for the Storm and sealing a four-point weekend.
On Saturday, Mar Matheson was the Steelers’ hero, finishing off a move he started from behind his own goal just five seconds from time.
Goals for the home side had come earlier in the game for Liam Kirk, Matthew Marquardt, Westerling and fellow Swede Andreas Valdix.