Sheffield Steeldogs enjoy leading role in Streaming Series after 7-5 win at Swindon Wildcats

SHEFFIELD STEELDOGS completed a deserved double over Swindon Wildcats to put themselves in pole position to win the NIHL National Streaming Series.

Alex Graham, on song for Sheffield Steeldogs, scoring twice in their 7-5 win at Swindon Wildcats. Picture: Cerys Molloy.

And while player-coach Ben Morgan insisted afterwards that winning the three-team behind-closed-doors event was not the primary objective, he will have taken satisfaction in the way his team performed in their 7-5 win at the Link Centre in Wiltshire.

While last week in South Yorkshire, the Steeldogs were able to nullify the Wildcats’ scoring, this week’s rematch produced a more open encounter, although the visitors' ability to carve out a 4-1 lead for themselves inside 25 minutes proved the significant difference.

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The hosts pulled themselves back to within one goal inside 40 minutes but, as they pushed in search of an equaliser, found themselves punished in their zone as a clinical Steeldogs picked them off to establish a 7-3 lead before two late consolation efforts from Swindon gave the scoreline a more respectable look.

Ben Lake made it 5-3 to Sheffield Steeldogs in the third period at Swindon. Picture: Cerys Molloy.

Alex Graham continued to impress, adding to his two goals in last week’s 5-1 win on home ice by opening the scoring on the powerplay at 5.16 with a neat finish from in front of net.

James Spurr doubled the lead 35 seconds later after a clever pass off the back boards from Ben O'Connor and although Chris Jones halved the deficit, Graham doubled his tally for a second week running when he cut in from the left to fire over Renny Marr’s left- shoulder and into the top corner with 14.40 on the clock.

O’Connor pressured the Wildcats defence into a mistake on the edge of their zone before breaking free to show nice hands and lift the puck over Marr's right shoulder for a shorthanded strike and a 4-1 lead at 24.43.

The Wildcats stormed back to make it a one-goal game through two power play strikes from Toms Rutkis, but it was as close as they got. Ben Lake made it 5-3 at 47.05 before Jason Hewitt’s shorthanded effort on a breakaway and a blast from just inside the blue line by Thomas Relf put the result beyond doubt. Balint Pakozdi and Jones, with his second of the night, provided some late consolation for the home team.

Ben O'Connor struick in the 25th minute with a skilfully-taken shorthanded goal to make it 4-1 against Swindon Wildcats. Picture: Cerys Molloy

"We're delighted with the win, obviously," said Morgan afterwards. "But the most important thing is that we put on another entertaining show for the people paying to watch the stream online.

"I think the Series has been a resounding success so far and hopefully we've got a few more people buying in to watch it."

Swindon player-coach, Aaron Nell, whose team have now played all four of their games in the Series and will watch the Steeldogs go toe-to-toe with Milton Keynes Lightning in next weekend's concluding double-header, added: "Sheffield were deserved winners - they were more clinical than us.

"It's disappointing to come out on the losing side but, on the whole, it has been a successful two weeks for us and if we manage to carry on playing after this series, then we can take a lot from this last two weeks."