Sheffield Steelers 3 Manchester Storm 0: Miserly approach paying off for Steelers and Mustukovs

BEAT ME IF YOU CAN: Sheffield Steelers' record-breaking netminder, Ervins Mustukovs. Picture: Dean Woolley.
BEAT ME IF YOU CAN: Sheffield Steelers' record-breaking netminder, Ervins Mustukovs. Picture: Dean Woolley.
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THE chief aim of Manchester Storm when they host Sheffield Steelers on Monday will be simple: score. At the moment, anything on top of that against Paul Thompson's side will be treated as a bonus.

Ryan Finnerty's side became the latest 'victim' of the Steelers' current miserly nature when they found themselves the fourth team in succession to be shutout by the South Yorkshire club, taking netminder Ervins Mustukovs's total time without conceding a goal to a little over 300 minutes.

Clearly at some point, the Latvian netminder will be beaten by the puck again, but the fact his defences haven't been breached since Fife Flyers' second goal in their 3-1 win against the Steelers on Sunday, December 17 is testament to the newfound resolute attitude discovered by Thompson's players.

It was following that defeat on home ice to Fife - on the back of some some other disappointing results - that led to an increase in the vocal dissatisfaction among some of the Steelers' faithful.

But the moment the Steelers next stepped out on to the ice for the second leg of their Challenge Cup quarter-final against Dundee Stars seems - for now at least - to have marked something of a watershed for the five-time Elite League champions.

Saturday night's victory took them back up to third in the standings, although the title advantage still lies with the top two of Cardiff Devils and Belfast Giants, particularly the defending champions who, after extending their winning streak to 12 games after a 6-3 win at home to Milton Keynes, find themselves four points clear of Adam Keefe's team.

In the midst of such a stunning run of form by the South Wales club, all the Steelers can do is take care of their own business and hope the leaders - who they trail by eight points having played a game more - slip up at some point.

Taking care of business is something they did diligently against the Storm, taking the lead after only 88 seconds through Robert Dowd. The second goal didn't arrive until the middle period, Dowd turning provider along with Levi Nelson for linemate Andreas Valdix to fire past Mike Clemente at 20.59.

Manchester created more chances and out-shot their hosts 28-22 on the night, but they couldn't find a way past Mustukovs, leaving Dowd to fire in his second of the night with less than two minutes on the clock while on the powerplay, completing a formulaic win for the home team.

MIND THE NET: Ervins Mustukovs makes one of the 28 saves he had to make against Manchester on Saturday night at Sheffield Arena. Picture: Dean Woolley

MIND THE NET: Ervins Mustukovs makes one of the 28 saves he had to make against Manchester on Saturday night at Sheffield Arena. Picture: Dean Woolley

Mathieu Roy battles for possession of the puck against Manchester Storm on Saturday night. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Mathieu Roy battles for possession of the puck against Manchester Storm on Saturday night. Picture: Dean Woolley.