A FOUR-GOAL, third period goal blitz put Sheffield Steelers firmly in control of their Challenge Cup semi-final over Glasgow Clan after winning the first leg 5-1.
The result was the fifth straight win for the Steelers over Zack Fitzgerald’s side in all competitions with the two set to meet in the return leg at the FlyDSA Arena on January 29.
Tanner Eberle led the way for the visitors with two goals, although the win was marred with key forward Anthony DeLuca leaving the Braehead Arena on crutches after crashing into the boards awkwardly in a goalless first period. He was later seen on crutches ahead of the team's trip back home to Sheffield.
Steelers' head coach Aaron Fox - missing D-man Josef Hrabal through injury but with assistant coach/defenceman Aaron Johnson back after a two-month injury layoff - was understandably impressed with his players' efforts, particularly in the third period when they showed a clinical streak as the Clan pushed further forward in an attempt to cut the deficit.
"Any time you can go plus four in the first leg of a cup game like this it’s huge for our group," said Fox. "I felt like we started to take that game over halfway through the second and then, again, found our rhythm in the third period.
"I just feel like we when we pick up a bit of momentum you can see the clinical scoring that we bring to the table on a nightly basis. We like to push teams to the edge for 60 minutes and at some point, most teams have been breaking lately - it was a good effort."
In an evenly-matched, often physical encounter it was the visitors who broke the deadlock early in the second, Marc-Olivier Vallerand getting on the board at 23.29 when he reacted quickest to a rebound off Clan goaltender Patrick Killeen from Ben O’Connor’s initial shot.
The lead didn’t last for long, however, a goalmouth scramble being settled when Mikael Lidhammar poked the puck home through Tomas Duba’s legs at 24.38.
It was with only 24 seconds gone in the third period, though, that the Steelers took control, Eberle breaking down the left boards to fire in past Killeen from a tight angle.
Eberle was then in the right place at the right time to double the advantage when tipping in from Brendan Connolly at 48.52.
Six minutes later, a break down the left from Lucas Sandstrom saw him pick out Jonathan Phillips, who fed John Armstrong to tap home from in front to make it 4-1.
Swedish forward Sandtstrom got himself on the scoresheet just over two minutes later, breaking free down the middle to fire over Killeen’s right shoulder.
Earlier in the day four Steelers’ players wer names in the Great Britain squad to take partin next month’s Olympic Pre-Qualifying tournament in Nottingham.
Defencemen Ben O’Connor and David Phillips, along with forwards Jonathan Phillips and Brendan Connolly were picked by head coach Pete Russell to take on Estonia, Romania and Hungary between February 6-9.
Rotherham-born netminder Ben Bowns, who plays with Cardiff Devils, has also been selected.