SHEFFIELD Steelers may be sitting pretty at third in the Elite League table, but player-coach Ryan Finnerty insists his players still have plenty to learn.
Finnerty’s team secured their fifth win in six games despite a determined Coventry Blaze fightback at the Motorpoint Arena on Saturday.
Steelers looked to be comfortable leading 5-2 with less than seven minutes remaining before Paul Thompson’s team responded with two powerplay goals in less than two minutes to ensure a nervous last few moments for the home team.
Those nerves were only settled when Neil Clark bagged his second of the night with an empty-net strike with 16 seconds remaining to give Steelers a 6-4 triumph.
“While we certainly don’t make it easy for ourselves I will say one thing about this team, and that is we are never beaten - we find a way to win,” said Finnerty.
“I’m happy with a lot of things (from the Coventry game) but we still have a long way to go, still have a lot to learn. At 5-2 the game should have been over but, somehow, we let Coventry back in and they make it 5-4.
“If it wasn’t for some big saves from DeCaro in the final period we may have thrown a point away.”
It was Coventry - going into the match on the back of an unbeaten start to their league campaign - who had struck first, Luke Fulghum pouncing in the seventh minute to score the only goal of the opening period.
But Steelers came out for the second with more intensity and soon found themselves level through Jeff Legue at 21.36. They were two goals ahead seven minutes later when, first Chad Huttel at 25.54, and then Mike Ramsey at 28.31 also found a way past Coventry netminder Peter Hirsch.
Fulghum grabbed his second of the night 37 seconds after Ramsey’s goal, but Legue fired home short-handed at 38.37 to restore the home side’s two-goal advantage.
That became a three-goal lead early in the third when Clark pounced for his first of the night and for a short while at least Steelers looked to be home and dry.
But when defenceman Mark Thomas was serving a slashing penalty, Aaron Nell fired past John DeCaro at 53.27. Then with Matt Stephenson off for a 2+10 check-to-the-head call, Owen Fussey profited to make it 5-4 with just over five minutes still left on the clock.
DeCaro was kept busy but stood tall and, after Thompson had pulled Hirsch to gain the man advantage, Clark slotted into the gaping net to restore the two-goal cushion and leave Coventry empty-handed.
SHEFFIELD Steeldogs followed up Friday night’s excellent overtime win at Swindon Wildcats in their English Premier League opener by doing the double over their Wiltshire rivals with a 4-1 win at Ice Sheffield on Sunday night.