Ashley Tait’s team headed home to Hampshire with two regulation points after a 4-3 win at Ice Sheffield, bouncing back from a 3-1 defeat on home ice against Leeds Knights the previous evening.
The result may leave Leeds as the only team with a 100 per cent record in the competition, but Steeldogs’ captain Bell believes his team have already shown they are capable of competing with the second-tier’s top outfits.
“It’s a setback but you’re not going to win every game during the season, so we’ve got to take the positives,” said Bell. “We’re gelling well as a team and we were unbeaten in competitive games until tonight.
“Losing to Bison isn’t a pleasing result but it’s certainly not something to be all doom and gloom about. We’ve spoken about where we went wrong and it is a sign of where we’re at that we’re coming off disappointed and frustrated with ourselves.
“But overall, to win four from five games, you can’t complain at that and we’ve got to keep striving for that for the rest of the season.”
It was Tait himself who opened the scoring on Sunday, scoring unassisted at 18.32 while short-handed, although the hosts were level within a minute through Sam Towner.
But, early in the second, Alex Roberts restored the visitors’ advantage, one that doubled when Aidan Doughty fired home on the powerplay at 27.39.
Another swift response - this time from the stick of Matt Bissonnette - again made it a one-goal game, though, which is how it stayed until the third period, only for Ryan Sutton to strike at 41.13 to see Bison pull further away again. Jason Hewitt scored on the power play at 49.47, but that equalising goal never came for the coach Greg Wood’s team.
The defeat came after a fine performance on the road in Shropshire 24 hours earlier, when the fitness of the visitors clearly told, scoring four unanswered goals in the last 10 minutes to complete a deserved win.
It was all the more impressive given they had to come from behind after veterans Jonathan Weaver and Jason Silverthorn had given the hosts a 2-0 lead inside 21 minutes.
Nathan Salem halved the deficit on the power play at 34.39, although Andy McKinney restored the hosts’ two-goal cushion three minutes later. Crucially, the Steeldogs made it a one-goal game again before the second intermission, Lee Bonner striking with 44 seconds of the period remaining.
Neither side could find the net again, however, until the game entered the final 10 minutes, Steeldogs’ equalising through James Spurr at 51.31 and going ahead for the first time just under four minutes later through Charlie Thompson.
Hewitt made it 5-3 a minute later before Bonner grabbed his second with an empty-net strike at 59.26.
Bell was pleased with the way his team were able to recover from a slow start and show their improved fitness with a strong finish against the 2019-20 NIHL National league and cup champions.
“We stuck in there, we ground it out and then in the third period we looked a little bit fitter, a little bit sharper and I think there was only going to be one winner,” added Bell.
“In years gone by, we wouldn’t normally have done that against Telford, we’d have probably collapsed and ended up being beat by about four or five goals. So that’s a good sign of where we’re at as a team.”