Coventry Blaze 5 Sheffield Steelers 7 - Late fightback repelled by Fox's leading men

SHEFFIELD STEELERS survived a fierce third period fightback from Coventry Blaze to extend their advantage at the top of the Elite Series standings.

IN THE BOX: Robert Dowd was handed a five-minute fighting major for tussling with Coventry's Max Krogdahl in the third period, the defenceman also getting two minutes for cross-checking. Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley.

Having edged a hard-fought first period 1-0 through Brendan Connolly's 15th-minute strike, Aaron Fox's team steamrollered their opponents in a dominant second 20 minutes, heading into the second intermission 5-1 ahead.

Liam Kirk quickly extended the lead to five goals at 42.55 and the result seemed a done deal. But Coventry gave themselves a lifeline just under three minutes later through Mac Howlett and got themselves to within two goals by the 49th minute through further efforts from the prolific Tristan Keck and Sam Duggan.

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The Steelers seemed to stem the leakage at the back end, but were put under further pressure with in the 59th minute left when Mike Hammond ripped a fierce shot through traffic past goalie Curtis Warburton and into the top corner to make it 6-5 with 87 seconds still remaining.

IN THE POINTS: Brendan Connolly continued his scoring streak with two points against Coventry on Thursday night. Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley.

But, as the Blaze tried to break out from their own zone in a bid to secure an unlikely equaliser, a wayward pass found its way to the stick of Connolly who was able to calmly stroke the puck into the empty net leaving the Steelers three points clear at the top with two games to play.

Fox's team could potentially seal winning the group phase before they even step on the ice to face Nottingham Panthers on Saturday night, should Coventry defeat Manchester Storm in the afternoon game.

Steelers' head coach Fox admitted his team blew hot and cold on the night.

"That one was a bit up and down, I liked our first 40, thought we were dialled in and doing all the little things right and were rewarded for it," said Fox. "But in the third there we got a little bit loosey-goosey and let them back into the game and momentum is one of those things in hockey that is hard to change once the ice starts to slant the wrong way - it can turn quickly.

"So I'm a little disappointed from that side of things, but obviously happy to get the win."

The Steelers had heavily outshot the Blaze in the first but only had the one goal to their name, a situation they rectified three goals in seven minutes after the restart.

Tanner Eberle doubled the lead at 21.56 and although the impressive Hammond halved the deficit five minutes later, the Steelers quickly took hold of the game, Jeremy Beaudry back-handing in a rebound at 26.34 before Josh Waller registered his second of the competition when squeezing the puck through Jordan Hedley just over two minutes later.

Eberle doubled his tally on the power play at 36.33 and once Kirk made it 6-1 early in the third it seemed to be game over, only for the Blaze to ensure the Steelers endured a nervous last few moments before Connolly's empty-net strike.