NIHL Weekend Review: Hull Pirates and Sheffield Steeldogs neck and neck once again

TOP SPOT: Jason Hewitt, Hull Pirates head coach. Picture: Lois Tomlinson
TOP SPOT: Jason Hewitt, Hull Pirates head coach. Picture: Lois Tomlinson
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YORKSHIRE rivals Hull Pirates and Sheffield Steeldogs both maintained their 100 per cent starts to the NIHL 1 season, indicating a repeat of last season’s title race is on the cards.

It was the Steeldogs who prevailed last time out to take the regular season Moralee title, but they are more than likely going to be taken down to the wire once again by their East Yorkshire rivals.

After four games, it is Jason Hewitt’s Pirates who have edged ahead of Ben Morgan’s team on goal difference following their double-header with division newcomers Sutton Sting.

Hull returned from their Saturday night road trip on the back of an 8-3 win over hosts Sutton, before adding a 10-0 victory on home ice the following evening.

The Steeldogs were pushed close at Solway Sharks before emerging 4-2 winners and were pushed even harder on home ice the following night at Ice Sheffield when they required an overtime winner from Milan Kolena to edge out Telford Tigers 5-4.

Having gone behind to a second-minute strike from Sutton’s Oliver Mitchell, it was player-coach Hewitt himself who restored parity at 2.55.

Ben Morgan, Sheffield Steeldogs' player-coach. Picture courtesy of Steeldogs.

Ben Morgan, Sheffield Steeldogs' player-coach. Picture courtesy of Steeldogs.

Sam Towner and Matty davies extended the lead only for Ryan Johnson to make it a one-goal game again in only the 11th minute.

James Archer doubled the lead again at 21.56, but Scott Morris’s strike three minutes later showed the hosts were not going away easily.

But three further second period goals from Hewitt, Jordan Fisher and Bobby Chamberlain ensured there was no way back for their opponents, Archer adding his second of the night in the 57th minute.

Back in Hull 24 hours later proved a more straightforward evening for the Pirates, hat-tricks for Chamberlain and Lee Bonner leading the way with further strikes from Josh Gent, Jonathan Kirk, Hewitt and Davies as the visitors ran into third period penalty trouble.

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On a thrilling Sunday night in Sheffield, the Steeldogs looked home and dry against Telford when Duncan Speirs slotted an empty net marker to make it 4-2 with only 100 seconds remaining.

It followed on from previous strikes for the hosts from Ashley Calvert, Cameron Brownley and Andrew Hirst which had seen Morgan’s team race into a 3-0 first-period lead before a double from Telford’s Richard Plant.

But, after Speirs strike, the Tigers rallied again, first making it 4-3 through Scott McKenzie before, with just 14 seconds remaining, levelling through Jason Silverthorn.

It was then left to Kolena to strike the killer blow at 63.27 to earn the hosts an extra point.

That unexpected drama came 24 hours after a stiff test of the Steeldogs’ resolve at Solway.

Nathan Salem and Calvert were on target as the game entered the third period at 2-2, the game-winning goal coming from the stick of player-coach on the powerplay Morgan before Kolena made sure of the win with just over two minutes remaining.