MATT MARQUARDT’S only previous return to former club Coventry Blaze back in October didn’t go too well. Last night, however, that all changed.
Having helped new club Sheffield Steelers beat his former employers 5-2 at the FlyDSA Arena on September 30, Marquardt and his team-mates could do little to stop Blaze swiftly gaining their revenge on home ice 24 hours later in a thumping 5-1 triumph.
The Steelers won the next meeting between the long-time rivals 3-1 on home ice in November, but last night’s fourth and final Elite League regular season encounter between the two could not have started much worse for Paul Thompson’s side.
Two goals from Marc-Olivier Vallerand and a Gaelan Patterson strike had the home side in control with less than 24 minutes on the clock.
But, just after the halfway mark, goals from Eric Neiley and Ben O’Connor had made it a one-goal game, setting the scene for Marquardt to walk off the ice as the hero.
The 30-year-old forward first pounced to bring his side level in the 53rd minute, setting up a frantic overtime period which ended at 62.27 when he struck for a second time - earning his team a four-point weekend following their 3-2 win against Guildford Flames the previous evening.
"Words were said at the first break (at Coventry)," said Steelers' head coach Thompson. "And I give the boys all the credit when it’s due. they dug in and showed character and battled back.
“Three months ago we don’t win that game. We have grown recently and that certainly came through against Coventry in the end.
"Mags (Matt Marquardt) will sleep well tonight. We needed a leader and he came through with two great goals to level the game and then win it. It’s always a great feeling to do that against your old club. We were all pleased for him.
“It was a good weekend for Colton Fretter too, he now has two games under him. We need him as he is a game-changer for us, he showed that with the play to Mags for the third goal - outstanding."
It leaves the Steelers in fifth spot in the overall standings ahead of Wednesday night’s home clash with leaders and champions-elect Cardiff Devils, who responded to Saturday’s surprise 7-2 defeat at Nottingham Panthers by walloping bottom club Edinburgh Capitals 10-2 at Murrayfield last night.
The Capitals had caused something of an upset the previous evening when they won 4-2 at Belfast Giants, whose weekend got worse 24 hours later when they lost 5-4 at home to second-bottom Milton Keynes Lightning.
On Saturday, Andreas Jamtin put the Steelers ahead in the 17th minute, but a late powerplay opportunity for Guildford winger Ian Watters at 18.55 saw him continue his purple patch against the hosts having scored a hat-trick against them the previous weekend in Surrey.
The Flames then silenced the home crowd when John Dunbar put them ahead just 32 seconds into the second period, after which the Steelers began to pile on the pressure which eventually paid off at 32.43 when Levi Nelson finished off some neat build-up play by Joonas Ronnberg and Mark Matheson.
In a keenly-fought third, it was left to American forward Neiley to find a way past Flames goaltender Brian Stewart - so often a thorn in the side of the Steelers when at previous club Coventry - slotting home the winning goal at 52.22.