YOU win some, you lose some; at least, that seems to be Sheffield Steelers’ way at the moment.
Last weekend saw them respond to a 7-2 hammering at Elite League newcomers Milton Keynes Lightning with a solid 3-1 win at home against an always-tricky Coventry Blaze side.
Six days later, the Steelers again suffered on the road, going down 4-1 to Nottingham Panthers – a scoreline which slightly flattered the hosts due to a late empty-net strike.
But, again, 24 hours later, the Steelers duly obliged head coach Paul Thompson’s calls for improvement with another win on home ice, last night gaining swift revenge on Milton Keynes, who were sent back home to Buckinghamshire on the back of a 6-1 defeat.
Thompson belied his players’ failure to take their chances in Nottingham – drawing a blank six times on the powerplay, a part of their game so far this season which has generally been regarded as a positive.
Any concerns on that score were quickly dispelled at Sheffield Arena last night, however, with four of the Steelers’ goals coming on the man advantage – two in the last few minutes from Mathieu Roy, who gave Thompson another reason to be smiling with his first league goals since the 4-3 home defeat to Belfast Giants on October 22.
John Armstrong got the ball rolling on the powerplay front at around the 10-minute mark with his 16th of the campaign.
Colton Fretter doubled the advantage at 21.20 before Kyle Essery halved the deficit with a short-handed marker six minutes later.
Mark Matheseon chipped in with his fourth of the season to restore the two-goal advantage on the powerplay with just 51 seconds of the second period left.
But the Lightning refused to buckle and it wasn’t until the game was into the last 10 minutes that the home crowd could relax somewhat, Robert Dowd pouncing at 50.54 before Roy returned to scoring ways with his double.
We had six or seven powerplays on Saturday and that is something that has been a plus for us all season long, but it wasn’t in Nottingham. We didn’t play a bad game, we just didn’t take our chances.Sheffield Steelers’ head coach, Paul Thompson.
Thompson had struggled to hide his frustration a little under 24 hours earlier in the bowels of the National Ice Centre after seeing his team suffer a seventh defeat out of eight Erhardt Conference games, surely a growing cause for concern in terms of how it will effect the team’s chances of a sixth regular season EIHL title.
The Steelers had taken the lead through Levi Nelson’s 17th-minute strike, only to be pegged back just over four minutes into the second period by Brett Perlini.
As Thompson admitted afterwards, the next goal would prove crucial and it went the way of the current league leaders at 43.22 through Raphael Bussieres.
A powerplay strike from the same player followed with just under 10 minutes remaining, the hosts making sure of the points when Jeff Brown fired into the empty net after Ervins Mustukovs had been pulled.
“We got good, quality chances but we didn’t take them and our powerplay was also poor,” said Thompson. “We had six or seven powerplays on Saturday and that is something that has been a plus for us all season long, but it wasn’t in Nottingham. We didn’t play a bad game, we just didn’t take our chances.”
It’s safe to assume that area of concern for Thompson was addressed last night.
The Steelers are hoping to entice a big crowd for the second leg of their Challenge Cup quarter-final against Dundee Stars on Tuesday, December 19 (face-off 7.30pm) by prcing all tickets at £5.
Season Ticket holders will have until close of business on Friday, December 8 to reserve their season ticket seats, with tickets now on general sale.