Sheffield Steeldogs deny Swindon Wildcats to ensure they stay perfect in Spring Cup

Sheffield Steeldogs ensured they maintained their ‘perfect’ Spring Cup record with a hard-fought 5-4 win over Swindon Wildcats.

Liam Kirk scored a hat-trick as Sheffield Steeldogs ensured they ended their spring Cup campaign with a 100 per cent record by beating Swindon 5-4. Picture courtesy of Andy Bourke/Podium Prints.

A Liam Kirk hat-trick led the way for Greg Wood’s team - who had already ensured they would end the behind-closed-doors competition as champions last weekend - with Jason Hewitt and Alex Graham also getting on the scoresheet.

It meant the hosts were able to lift the trophy on the back of 12 straight wins, a campaign which started with back-to-back victories over the Wildcats on February 13 and 14.

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It’s hoped NIHL National teams will return soon for another behind-closed-doors competition, although some, including the Steeldogs, will likely have to add new faces to their roster with some players heading off to take part in the EIHL Elite Series which gets underway in Nottingham on Saturday.

IT'S GOT TO BE, PERFECT: Sheffield Steeldogs head coach Greg Wood can take enormous satisfaction from his team's 100 per cent Spring Cup record. Picture courtesy of Peter Best

Defenceman Davey Phillips, along with forwards Ben Lake, Alex Graham, Jason Hewitt, Liam Kirk and Jonathan Phillips will all be in action over the next month or so. All bar Lake will be playing for neighbouring Sheffield Steelers, who get together for the start of their training camp at Ice Sheffield today.

Steelers’ captain Jon Phillips, who admitted he had almost given up hope of pulling on a Steelers’ jersey again before the 2021-22 season, acknowledged his time on the ice with the Steeldogs over the past weeks had been both enjoyable and invaluable.

“It’s been a lot of fun - it’s just been great to be out there on the ice,” said Phillips, whose only other action during 2020-21 was eight games in the German third tier with Passau Black Hawks. “I really enjoyed the fact that we approached the Spring Cup in the way we did.

“It’s been the perfect way for some of us to get up and running ready for the World Championships. I felt we had really good structure from Woody, who demanded intensity and hard work. It has been a great environment to be part of.”

Jonathan Phillips will return to Sheffield Steelers' roster on Monday in time for the Elite Series, having helped Sheffield Steeldogs enjoy a hugely successful Spring Cup campaign. Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley.

With their unbeaten record on the line at Ice Sheffield, 18-year-old Graham, who has consistently shown why so many people are excited about how far he can go in the game, put the hosts ahead at 3.23, although the Wildcats were ahead at the first break through strikes from Matthew Myers and Tomasz Malasinski.

Kirk levelled with his first of the night early in the second, only for Swindon to regain the lead through Toms Rutkis at 25.47.

Hewitt hauled his team level yet again with just under two minutes left in the period, with Kirk doubling his tally on a delayed penalty 107 seconds into the third, his hat-trick strike coming just over four minutes later.

That proved the be the game-winning strike, with Balint Pakozdi - who will be teaming up with Kirk and several other Steeldogs’ players for Sheffield Steelers in the forthcoming Elite Series - ensuring a nervous finale for the hosts when he made it a one-goal game again at 55.36.