SHEFFIELD STEELERS’ head coach Aaron Fox admitted his team’s 3-1 win at Nottingham Panthers was a “huge” moment.
Not only did it keep the South Yorkshire club at the top of the Elite League standings, but it meant they were able to bounce back from a frustrating 7-3 defeat to Cardiff Devils on home ice the previous evening.
“This was a huge one for us,” said Fox. “The way things went for us on Saturday was a tough one and less than 24 hours later to battle the way we did and bring those two points home was huge for the guys and we’re really proud of them.
“We had a short line-up too, with the injury bug because we had (Marc-Olivier) Vallerand, (James) Bettauer and Robert Dowd out of our line-up, as well as a couple of other long-term injured, so it was a great effort.”
Aaron Brocklehurst got the Steelers going at the National Ice Centre when his speculative effort somehow got past Kevin Carr at his near post just over a minute into the second period.
But it was all level coming out for the third after Panthers had replied through a Dylan Malmquist at 35.33. Crucially, the next goal went to the visitors.
The way things went for us on Saturday was a tough one and less than 24 hours later to battle the way we did and bring those two points home was hugeAaron Fox
On a Steelers’ penalty kill, Tanner Eberle was quickest to react to a cleared puck cannonning off the boards behind Carr’s net, before following up his own rebound to round the net from where he provided the perfect feed for John Armstrong to fire in a short-handed, goal at 47.51.
Eberle was again the provider when, with just 51 seconds remaining, he set up captain Jonathan Phillips for a simple empty-net marker.
Cardiff’s 7-3 win over Glasgow Clan sees them remain in second, three points behind the Steelers, but with four games in hand.
Saturday’s game between the two had been particularly frustrating for the Steelers given how much possession and chances they had enjoyed.
But, after going 3-0 down in the first, they had a mountain to climb, especially when the deficit became 4-0 early in the second.
Marek Troncinsky got the hosts on the board at 28.44, but it was 6-1 to the visitors after 40 minutes, a seventh Cardiff goal being conceded before Brendan Connolly and Vallerand fired in a power play marker apiece in the final 10 minutes, strikes which were mere consolation.