A HOME opener for new head coach Tom Barrasso and a return to action for forwards Rob Dowd and Jordan Owens failed to bring the desired boost for Sheffield Steelers as they suffered a fifth straight league defeat.
The 3-1 loss to Fife Flyers ensured the Steelers’ remain rooted to the bottom of the Elite League standings ahead of a daunting trip to defending champions Cardiff Devils on Saturday night.
As with the 5-2 defeat to Nottingham Panthers on Saturday night - which saw the Steelers with an even shorter bench - there was plenty of endeavour and initiative against Todd Dutiaume’s side but, as has happened too often this season, it was hampered by further power play problems and a continued inability to make the most of the scoring opportunities they were able to create.
And, judging by his post-match comments, it seems the new head coach is aware wheer most of the work is required in between games.
“We played a hard game,” said Barrasso. “I’m pretty sure the team we played against are exhausted right now because we skated them really hard.
“Our special teams were sub-standard, our power play wasn’t very good, our penalty kill was probably even worse. But, five-on-five, I thought we played a terrific game.
“The second period was sloppy from both teams - we stopped skating a little bit and gave them a little bit of life, but I didn’t feel as if they controlled the game at any point in the second and we dominated again at the start of the third and they spent very little time in our zone five-on-five – that’s the type of game we want to play.”
Buoyed by the return of forwards Dowd and Owens, it was the Steelers – effectively running three lines all night – who came out of the blocks the quickest, the GB forward in particular proving lively around the Fife net and going close to breaking the deadlock on a couple of occasions.
The Steelers - missing forwards Evan McGrath, Chris Lawrence and Brandon Whistle – were first to earn a power play in the 10th minute, although it was the Flyers who came closest to scoring during the penalty, with netminder Jackson Whistle having to be alert to deny Carlo Finucci when he burst through on a one-on-one.
The breakthrough deservedly came the way of the home side, Justin Buzzeo pouncing on a mistake by Danick Gauthier to drive the net and, when his initial effort was denied by Shane Owen, he was quickest to react to create an.angle and lift the rebound into the roof of the net at 18.51.
We played a hard game,” said Barrasso. “I’m pretty sure the team we played against are exhausted right now because we skated them really hard.Sheffield Steelers’ head coach, Tom Barrasso
The Steelers’ failure to make several second period power play opportunities to count was to cost them when, in the 36th minute and having just killed off a penalty call on Buzzeo, the Flyers pulled themselves level, the puck ricocheting of Josh McFadden into the path of Evan Bloodoff, who was free to fire the puck home past a stranded Whistle.
It got worse for the hosts just over five minutes into the third, Fife doing something the Steelers haven’t managed a great deal of this season - scoring on the power play when Brett Bulmer forced the puck home from close range.
Try as they might, the Steelers couldn’t pull themselves level, a sixth power play of the evening again proving fruitless, although both Jonas Westerling and Josh Pitt went close.
With Whistle pulled for the extra attacker in the closing moments, Fife closed the game out with an empty net strike from Paul Crowder.