Hull Pirates rebound in 11-goal thriller as Sheffield Steeldogs suffer on the road after shootout triumph
Jason Hewitt’s side had come out on the wrong end of a 13-goal thriller at third-placed Peterborough Phantoms in the weekend’s first game but edged their home ice tussle by the same one-goal margin with Lewis Clifford’s team.
The Pirates - missing their player-coach - got off to the perfect start when going ahead in the second minute through captain Sam Towner, eventually taking a 3-1 lead in at the first break through two late strikes from Lee Bonner and Jordan Fisher, with Tomas Kana having earlier levelled for the visitors in the 14th minute.
The Lightning made it a one-goal game again through Lewis Christie at 20.17 only for James Archer’s 25th-minute strike to pull Hull clear again.
The topsy-turvy nature of the game continued when Grant McPherson’s power play strike made it 4-3 just after the halfway mark, Hull again extending their lead to two four minutes later through Matt Bissonnette.
That prompted a second of the night - on the power play at 35.45 - from the Lightning’s Kane which preceded a spell of relative calm until Bonner’s second of the night at 46.23.
Kana’s hat-trick strike - again on the power play - with just under 10 minutes remaining ensured a nervous conclusion for the hosts, but they hung on and sit fifth in the standings, six points of Basingstoke Bison with five games to play.
On Saturday, Hull found themselves 4-2 down at the halfway point, thankful to two Matty Davies strikes for keeping them in touch.
But a Towner power play strike at 31.57 pulled them to within one before two 44th-minute strikes from the same player and Bonner put the visitors in front for the second time on the night.
That lead doubled in the 51st minute through a Hewitt strike but Peterborough rallied strongly and fired three goals past Ashley Smith in the last six minutes to record an impressive come-from-behind win.
Sheffield Steeldogs spent the whole weekend on the road, their best moment arriving on Saturday with a 4-3 shootout win at leaders Telford before a tough night at play-off chasing Bracknell Bees saw them go down 7-1.
They came close to winning in regulation in Telford after two goals from Vladimir Luka and a James Spurr effort saw them come from 2-0 down to go into the final minute 3-2 ahead, Telford’s goals coming from Scott McKenzie and Sam Watkins.
But Brandon Whistle struck with 53 seconds remaining to take the game into overtime and then, with no further goals forthcoming, a shootout where Jan Danecek was the only player to convert to secure the extra point for the visitors.
On Sunday, an early power play strike from Spurr put the Steeldogs ahead, but it all went the way of Doug Sheppard’s side thereafter. The result leaves Bracknell three points adrift of rivals Raiders with four games remaining as the two battle it out for the eighth and final playoff spot.
It may have been the second successive blank weekend for Leeds Chiefs in terms of points, but player-coach Sam Zajac was buoyed by a number of encouraging signs.
A 7-4 defeat on the road at Milton Keynes was followed by a 4-3 defeat at home to champions-elect Telford and while it will have made for an immensely frustrating 48 hours for Zajac and his players, it was far from doom and gloom.
Zajac felt the first period against Telford at Elland Road amounted to his team’s best 20 minutes of the season, going in as they did, 2-1 to the good against the league leaders.
And while they were to be ultimately denied, Zajac was encouraged by his players’ ability to more than match the best the UK game’s second tier currently has to offer.
“That first period was the best 20 minutes we’ve played all season and that is the way we want this team to be playing all season,” said Zajac.
“When everyone is going, we play with speed, we move the puck quickly and we’re tough to play against. Then we came out a bit flat in the second and they came back into it well, but in the third, it wasn anyone’s game.”
Lewis Houston and Lewis Baldwin gave the Chiefs a 2-1 lead at the first break only for Telford to dominate the second to take a 4-2 lead into the third. Richard Bentham made it a one-goal game on the power play in the 45th minute but, try as they might, the Chiefs could not get past Brad Day again.
On Saturday, the Chiefs found themselves 3-0 down inside 10 minutes and then 5-0 behind by the halfway mark against a dominant Lightning.
The visitors rallied briefly towards the end of the second through strikes from Houston and Adam Barnes, only for Milton Keynes to restore their five-goal lead midway through the third before Houston and Baldwin grabbed some late consolation efforts.