JIM Jorgenson earned praise for playing a welcome cameo role after months out with injury to help put Sheffield Steelers in pole position to reach the Challenge Cup final.
A 4-2 victory over 27-year-old Jorgenson’s former club Braehead Clan in Glasgow on Wednesday night sees Ryan Finnerty’s team placed as firm favourites to progress going into next Tuesday’s second leg at the Motorpoint Arena (7.30pm).
And given the opponents in the final will be Nottingham Panthers, the Steelers will require little additional motivation to get the job done.
Another bonus of the midweek trip to Scotland was the return to the Steelers’ line-up of defenceman Jorgenson, who drew praise from head coach Finnerty after agreeing to come back into action ahead of schedule after sitting out the last three months while recovering from a broken ankle.
“We came up here without Steven Goertzen, but young Lee Esders did a great job stepping in,” said Finnerty.
“Credit too to Jim Jorgensen, he isn’t due back from injury for another couple of weeks, but knew we needed him, he stepped up to the plate tonight.
“He played seven shifts to help us out, he gave the other guys a rest and took some of the workload. He looked good out there, very assured and we can’t wait to get him back properly as soon as possible.”
Jordan Krestanovich put the home side ahead at 3.36, with former Steelers’ forward Robert Farmer doubling the advantage at 20.39 on the powerplay with Jason Hewitt in the penalty box on a slashing call.
But the Steelers quickly halved the deficit, making the most of a powerplay opportunity of their own through Drew Fata at 22.47.
It was another powerplay that saw the visitors draw level, Simon Ferguson scoring his 12th goal of the season at 25.38. The Steelers then got themselves in front for the first time on the night with a strike from Tylor Michel at 37.11.
Finnerty would have been happy with a one-goal lead on the return home, but was allowed to smile even more broadly when Jeff Legue made it 4-2 at 56.09.
Legue’s strike - his 31st goal of the season - was his 206th goal and 472nd overall point for the club, seeing him draw level with Ken Priestlay for third place in the Steelers’ all-time scoring charts.
“We weren’t good in the first period,” said Finnerty, “We gave the puck away and were just bad. I wasn’t too worried even when we went two down as I thought we couldn’t keep playing like this.
“Once we got our heads sorted in the second period we were fine and played a great middle period which saw us take control. Then I think we played a really smart third period on the road, gave up very little and snatched that fourth goal which could prove crucial.”