WHEN Eric Neiley struck his second goal in as many nights against former club Sheffield Steelers his old boss Paul Thompson could have been forgiven for fearing the worst.
Neiley had been on target for new club Milton Keynes Lightning just under 24 hours earlier in Sheffield on Saturday as Doug McKay’s team well and truly spoilt the hosts’ opening-night party with a 3-2 victory.
But in the return match between the two last night in Buckinghamshire, Thompson’s players were able to deliver on a lot of the promise they had shown the previous evening to run out deserved 5-2 winners.
“We dropped the ball on Saturday and lost two points, but we felt it going into Sunday’s game and got the job done and we owed the fans a win,” said Thompson.
“It feels great to get the first win on the board and I felt on Saturday, we let ourselves and the fans down.”
The victory – thanks in large part to a Josh Pitt hat-trick – put a welcome gloss on a weekend that had got off to the worst possible start in front of a sell-out crowd at Sheffield Arena, where the Steelers will return for their fifth game in five days on Wednesday to host Fife Flyers.
After Neiley’s ninth-minute opener last night on the power play the Steelers pulled themselves level with a goal on the man advantage themselves through Evan McGrath.
A goalless second period followed, but it was in the third that the Steelers’ fitness, quality and manpower really told although the hosts showed plenty of fight when David Norris quickly cancelled out Pitt’s first strike of the night just over a minute into the third.
Thereafter it was all Steelers, Pitt’s second power play marker making it 3-2 at 44.09 before McGrath added to his earlier strike just over five minutes later. Pitt sealed the points with his third at 56.51.
The Steelers had shown great determination the previous night coming back from 2-0 down when Neiley’s 14th-minute strike had added to a goal two minutes earlier by fellow Steelers old boy Andreas Valdix.
We dropped the ball on Saturday and lost two points, but we felt it going into Sunday’s game and got the job done and we owed the fans a win,Paul Thompson, Sheffield Steelers head coach.
Steelers quickly halved the deficit through Aaron Johnson before drawing level in the 32nd minute through the lively and impressive Justin Buzzeo.
But a scrappy third goal for the Lightning just before the end of the second period, from the stick of Joonas Huovinen, ultimately proved the difference.