SHEFFIELD STEELERS endured a nightmare start to their Continental Cup campaign when they were hammered 7-1 by Yunost Minsk in Rungsted.
With the top two teams ensured of progressing, the Steelers can still entertain hopes of qualifying for the third and final round of the competition if they win their remaining two games, keeping one of two possible routes into next season’s Champions Hockey League alive until early next year.
Next up are Danish hosts Rungsted and it can only be hoped the South Yorkshire club enjoy a better start than they did against opening day opponents, Yunost Minsk from Belarussia.
Scouting information and video footage had proved difficult for Thompson and his coaching team ahead of the tournament, but they were soon given an indication of what they were up against when they found themselves 3-0 down by the end of the first, despite the Steelers posting more shots on goal.
It didn’t take long for the seven-time Belarussian league champions to make their mark, going ahead with just 80 seconds on the clock through Alexander Kogalev.
Minsk doubled their advantage just over six minutes later when Nikita Mitskevich found a way past Ervins Mustukovs in the Steelers net.
Pre-tournament qarnings about staying out of the penalty box seemed to have been heeded by the Steelers, but they were made to pay the very first time they stepped out line.
Colton Fretter, returning to the starting line-up after a six-game suspension, was called for a tripping penalty at 13.27 and Mikhail Zakharov’s team only needed 27 seconds with the man advantage to make it count through Viktor Turkin.
Early in the second, the Steelers killed a tripping call on Mathieu Roy but, soon after, found themselves 4-0 down through Konstantin Zakharov’s 24th-minute strike.
Jonas Westerling was called for holding in the 28th minute and his team were made to pay once again, Pavel Razvadovski making it 5-0 with just 22 seconds remaining on the subsequent powerplay.
A call on the Steelers for too many men on the ice just before the end of the period also proved costly when Marek Slovak fired home at 39.06.
The Steelers avoided being shut out thanks to Roy’s 52nd-minute powerplay strike, but Minsk ensureed they finished six goals to the good in the closing seconds when Turkin took advantage of a 5-on-3 powerplay to score his second of the night.