Sheffield Steelers 4 Kurbads Riga 2: Stoic Steelers complete memorable turnaround to keep Continental Cup dream alive

SEE YOU IN JANUARY: Sheffield Steelers' players celebrate their 4-2 victory and Continental Cup progression in Rungsted. Picture: Dean Woolley.
SEE YOU IN JANUARY: Sheffield Steelers' players celebrate their 4-2 victory and Continental Cup progression in Rungsted. Picture: Dean Woolley.
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SHEFFIELD STEELERS kept their Continental Cup dream alive - and with it a potential return to the Champions Hockey League - thanks to a stunning win over Latvia's Kurbads Riga.

The Steelers will now look to host the third and final round of the competition for European clubs when it is staged for January 12-14.

Having suffered a harsh 7-1 defeat on the opening day against eventual group winners Yunost Minsk on Friday in the Danish town of Rungsted, the Steelers regrouped and came up big by following up a 5-4 win after a shoot-out against the hosts on Saturday with a second triumph just 16 hours or so later to seal the second qualification spot in the final group standings.

Both teams went into Sunday's encounter knowing the winner would progress along with Minsk and it was a case of role reversal for the Steelers when, for the first time in the competition, they found themselves in front

Handed a five-minute powerplay after Riga forward Martins Cuplins received a boarding penalty plus a game misconduct, Jonas Westerling put Paul Thompson's determined side ahead at 11.18. However, the lead lasted barely a minute with Gatis Gricinskis replying with a shorthanded effort for the Latvians.

But with time still remaining on the initial powerplay, Tim Wallace and John Armstrong combined to set up Mathieu Roy to score from close range at 13.42. They weren't finished there either, with Levi Nelson - the recipient of the initial heavy hit from behind by Cuplins - finishing from a neat pass by Andreas Valdix at 14.41, just nine seconds before the powerplay ended.

ON TOP: Sheffield Steelers' players celebrate their third straight powerplay goal in the first period against Kurbads Riga. Picture: Dean Woolley

ON TOP: Sheffield Steelers' players celebrate their third straight powerplay goal in the first period against Kurbads Riga. Picture: Dean Woolley

But, in what was proving a chaotic six-minute spell, Scott Aarssen incurred a slashing penalty to hand Riga a powerplay goal of their own at 16.22 from the stick of Martins Gipters.

There was no way the flurry of scoring could be maintained by two sides desperate to make the final round and so it proved with the second period being a tense, goalless session. It meant Kurbads had to come out and throw everything at a disciplined Steelers side in the third.

Late penalties against Andre Deveaux and Levi Nelson combined with Kurbads pulling netminder Uldis Calpa meant there were some anxious moments in the closing minutes for Thompson's team. but, as with the previous night, Ervins Mustukovs was in stand out form in the Steelers goal, with Ben O’Connor's empty net strike with just four seconds remaining enabling a collective sigh of relief all round for the South Yorkshire club and their loyal band of followers.

KNOCK IT OFF: Sheffield Steelers' Zack Fitzgerald gets up close and personal with Kurbads Riga's Martins Lavrovs. Picture: Dean Woolley.

KNOCK IT OFF: Sheffield Steelers' Zack Fitzgerald gets up close and personal with Kurbads Riga's Martins Lavrovs. Picture: Dean Woolley.