THREE minutes, three goals. If only it could be as simple as this more often.
Having returned up the M1 on Saturday night nursing the pain of a 7-2 defeat at the hands of Elite League newcomers Milton Keynes Lightning and with the fierce criticism of head coach Paul Thompson ringing in their ears, Sheffield Steelers needed to bounce back quickly.
They were able to do that in under 10 minutes against Coventry Blaze at Sheffield Arena last night, although the visitors ensured it was not all plain sailing when they hit back before the end of the first period.
But the damage had already been done.
Shortly after Zack Fitzgerald and Blaze’s Dax Lauwers had briefly gone toe-to-toe, Robert Dowd opened the scoring at 6.37 before Andreas Valdix – on the powerplay – and Colton Fretter completed the scoring frenzy for Sheffield.
Coventry hit back at 17.14 when Brett Robinson set up Marc-Olivier Vallerand for his 14th goal of the season, but, after such a frenetic opening 20 minutes, that proved to be all in terms of scoring.
The 3-1 win was enough to see the Steelers hold on to fourth spot in the overall standings, their night improved even further by news of defeats for Nottingham Panthers and Cardiff Devils, two of their three main title rivals.
The reason for Thompson’s ire following the Steelers’ first trip to Milton Keynes in 21 years was for an “unacceptable” performance from his players, which he felt “embarrassed” the club’s fans.
Tommy Mele gave the Lightning the lead after just over four minutes, before Francis Verreault-Paul doubled the advantage in the 15th minute. Carl Hudson made it 3-0 at 28.38, the game being effectively put out of sight by Kevin King’s shorthanded marker five minutes later.
Teenager Liam Kirk got the Steelers on the board in the 46th minute and captain Jonathan Phillips gave his team a flicker of hope with a shorthanded effort at 48.59.
“Nobody is hiding from the fact that we embarrassed ourselves on Saturday in front of our travelling fans at Milton Keynes. It was a bad, bad game.Sheffield Steelers’ head coach, Paul Thompson.
But Mele’s second of the night – on the powerplay – just under four minutes later ended the Steelers’ hopes, Guillaume Doucet and Mele’s hat-trick strike adding insult to injury for the visitors.
For Thompson, he was glad to get the kind of response he had been looking for 24 hours later against Coventry.
“Nobody is hiding from the fact that we embarrassed ourselves on Saturday in front of our travelling fans at Milton Keynes,” said Thompson. “It was a bad, bad game.
“I wanted a response and I got one. I started our fourth line as our top line against Coventry to send a message. I dropped some of our first and second line players down into areas that thjey’ve probably not been on, but I got a response from them and a good work ethic from them.”
Of chief concern to Thompson after the win against his former club, however, was an injury to Zack Fitzgerald after he took a puck to the face, leading to him requiring hopsital treatment.
“He doesn’t look too good right now and I’m more concerned with our D situation and whether we’re going to lose Fitzy for any length of time. That is one of the worst injuries you can ever have.”