Sheffield Steelers 4 Coventry Blaze 6 - Aaron Fox suffers case of opening night blues

Ben O'Connor battles for possession against Coventry Blaze. Picture: Dean Woolley.
Ben O'Connor battles for possession against Coventry Blaze. Picture: Dean Woolley.
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AN OPENING night defeat to Coventry Blaze in the Elite League regular season schedule was almost certainly not in the script for Sheffield Steelers

Three times Aaron Fox's team took the lead at FlyDSA Arena, three times Danny Stewart's team came back until, eventually, they took the lead themselves and then both points.

Afterwards, the frustrated head coach was left to rue missed opportunities in front of net and questioned some of his players' contributions.

"We had our chances to break that game open," said Fox. "We took a 4-2 lead and I had the shots at 44-21 and giving up 14 of those shots would be grade A scoring chances for them so, for me, that's not good enough.

"We dominated play a lot of the night and we probably had the chances to score nine or 10 goals tonight and then, when sometimes pucks don't go in, and you have counter hockey and they come down and score on the first shot it is a little deflating at times.

"There are some guys who obviously need to look in the mirror a little bit tonight and figure out if they did everything they could to help this hockey team win. But I'm glad we get to go do this again tomorrow and, hopefully, we'll have a better result."

MAGIC HANDS: Anthony DeLuca showed neat skill to put Steelers 2-1 ahad against Coventry on Saturday night. Picture: Dean Woolley.

MAGIC HANDS: Anthony DeLuca showed neat skill to put Steelers 2-1 ahad against Coventry on Saturday night. Picture: Dean Woolley.

It had all started so well for the hosts when Marc-Olivier Vallerand found Robert Dowd who broke away down the ice to fire the puck past Jamie Philips at 3.28. But an indication of how difficult it was going to be to shake off Coventry arrived just over four minutes later when David Broll's fiercely-struck effort found a way through Pavel Kantor.

It was another four minutes or so before the next goal arrived, Anthony DeLuca showing good speed and then quick hands to slot the puck around Phillips to make it 2-1.

It was a lead the Steelers held until just over five minutes into the second period when an unsighted Kantor could do little to stop Justin Hamonic's short-handed strike after a neat feed from the impressive Andrew Johnston.

It was reward for a dogged, workmanlike performance from the Blaze, who while maybe struggling to match the Steelers' attacking flair, were in no mood to be left behind.

GET IN: Robert Dowd fires past Jamie Phillips to make it 1-0 to Sheffield Steelers. Picture: Dean Woolley.

GET IN: Robert Dowd fires past Jamie Phillips to make it 1-0 to Sheffield Steelers. Picture: Dean Woolley.

But their task looked a lot tougher within two minutes or so of drawing level, when Brendan Connolly twice got himself in the right spot to tip home two powerplay goals - the first from Vallerand's driven effort at 25.51, the second from Ben O'Connor at 27.25.

But, crucially, Blaze were back within one quickly, a tip-in of their own from Janne Laakkonen off Justin Hache's shot proving enough to elude Kantor.

A third leveller of the night came with just over 10 minutes remaining, Broll breaking free down the middle before laying off for Johnston, who showed great hands to lift the puck over Kantor.

And the Blaze went ahead for the first time just under three minutes later, Charles Corcoran forcing the puck past Kantor after Evan Bloodoff worked hard to feed him from behind the net. As the Steelers understandably chased the game, Kantor was pulled and a poke check from defenceman Drew Schiestel had enough power in it to carry the puck over the line to make it 6-4 with just 10 seconds remaining.

The Steelers have an immediate opportunity to put gain revenge when they head to Coventry's SkyDome Arena on Sunday.