SHEFFIELD Steelers’ head coach Doug Christiansen saw plenty of encouraging signs as his team came from behind to beat high-flying Dundee Stars 2-1 in the Elite League.
The hard-earned victory moves Christiansen’s team up to fifth in the overall Elite League standings as they embark on a run of 16 successive league games after spending the majority of the first month of the season competing in the Challenge Cup.
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A goalless first period looked likely to be followed by further blank sheets in the second as Jeff Hutchins’s Dundee team showed the kind of grit and determination which had taken them to the top of the standings on the back of notable home wins over the Steelers, Coventry, Nottingham and Cardiff.
The deadlock was broken at 36.10 but, for the home fans, it came at the wrong end when former Hull Stingrays defenceman Sam McCluskey fired in the puck from the right-wing to see it fly through a crowd of bodies and clear of Steelers’ goalie Frank Doyle.
Given the Steelers’ hit-and-miss start to the season, home supporters could have been forgiven for thinking another disappointment was coming their way.
But they came out re-energised for the third period, putting sustained pressure on the Dundee net and, with just over 10 minutes remaining, the Steelers’ pressure eventually told when Nico Sacchetti took an interference penalty, allowing Jeff Legue to fire in a fierce powerplay equaliser at 49.11 which looked to take some kind of deflection on its way past helpless Dundee goaltender Dan Bakala.
The cheers got even louder from the home fans 94 seconds later when Stefan Meyer fired home a left-hander high past Bakala in his gloveside.
Christiansen was happy his team had remained solid throughout a difficult encounter against the Scottish club and must now get them ready for their road trip to his former club, Belfast Giants, on Saturday.
“There is no doubt in my mind that Bakala is playing as well as any goaltender in the league, but I think Frank Doyle matched him save for save tonight,” said Christiansen.
“They’ve also got a lot of guys that can hurt you, but I felt our guys continued to work their D, worked down low and got pucks to the net - if we can continue to do that we’ll be a good hockey team.
“I thought our team discipline was good, we were good with the puck, but we were also good without the puck and we stayed out of the box and that’s a good formula for any team.
“We made a better job overall in all three zones, so we are improving as a hockey club, we’re not there, but we are definitely improving.”