NIHL National: Mixed bag for Sheffield Steeldogs and Leeds Knights

SHEFFIELD STEELDOGS were denied an opportunity to close the gap on leaders Telford Tigers when they lost out 3-0 at home to Tom Watkins’s side at Ice Sheffield.

And Leeds Knights also suffered mixed fortunes, taking just two points from a home double-header after Basingstoke Bison headed home to Hampshire with a 5-1 win, scuppering the hosts’ hopes of a four-point weekend after they had edged out Peterborough Phantoms at Elland Road 5-4 on a shoot-out on Saturday.

Like their Yorkshire rivals, though, the Steeldogs were able to take something from the weekend after returning home from their Saturday night road trip to Bees IHC with a 4-1 win.

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Sunday proved much harder though, the Steeldogs falling behind to a power play marker from Jonathan Weaver with just 40 seconds of the first period remaining.

DRAWING A BLANK: Sheffield Steeldogs' Matt Bissonnette battles for possession during Sunday night's 3-0 home loss against leaders Telford Tigers. Picture courtesy of Peter Best/Steeldogs Media.

It was another power play goal which saw the defending NIHL National champions double their lead, Scott McKenzie making the man advantage county at 36.31.

But the Steeldogs remainined in the hunt throughout, in a close-fought encounter, their hopes only dashed in the last minute when former forward Vladimir Luka made sure of the points for the visitors with an empty-net strike.

Having beaten the Bees 6-0 on home ice the previous Sunday, the Steeldogs headed to Slough on Saturday afternoon understandably in confident mood and took the lead through Jack Brammer’s 14th-minute power play strike.

That was how it stayed until just after the haflway mark when the hosts levelled through a short-handed effort from Ivan Antonov. But, just 32 seconds later, the visitors restored their lead when Lee Haywood beat former Steeldogs netminder Curtis Warburton at 32.33.

Scott McKenzie celebrates scoring Telford Tigers' second goal in their 3-0 win at Sheffield Steeldogs on Sunday. Picture courtesy of Peter Best/Steeldogs Media.

The lead doubled soon after when Swedish import Andreas Valdix added to his earlier assist on Brammer’s opener by registering his first goal for the team at 33.00. The 37-year-old former Sheffield Steelers’ forward then doubled his own tally at 47.19 to ensure a comfortable conclusion for his team.

Peterborough seemed well in control at the halfway mark in Leeds on Saturday, Cole Shudra having cancelled out Leo Markey’s third-minute opener before second-period strikes Ales Padelek, Callum Buglass and Duncan Speirs put Slava Koulikov’s team into a commanding 4-1 lead.

But a remarkable 66 seconds of hockey saw the Knights pull level, Brown registering his 50th goal of the season on the power play at 32.16 before Jordan Fisher and then Adam Barnes at 33.22 had the home crowd on their feet.

Remarkably after a frenetic middle period, no further goals came, either in the third or overtime. The extra point was secured thanks to Brown and Gulliver scoring in the subsequent shoot-out, while Gospel kept out all of Peterborough’s efforts.

LANDMARK: Kieran Brown scored his 50th goal of the season for Leeds Knights, helping his team to a 5-4 win over Peterborough Phantoms after a shootout. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

There was to be no comeback 24 hours later, a well-drilled and efficient Bison proving good value for both points.

Alex Sampford blasted one past Gospel at 6.34 to put the Bison ahead, the lead 2-0 at the first intermission after Alex Roberts’s shot from distance took a deflection and into the net on the power play at 15.25.

Just after the halfway mark it was 4-0 to Ashley Tait’s team, George Norcliffe finishing off a 3-on-1 break at 50 seconds into the middle period, before Roberts bagged his second.

Zack Milton had time and space on the power play to pick his spot and beat Gospel at 42.04, with Shudra scoring a late consolation at 58.03 to ensure the Knights retained their record of not being shut out this season.