Sheffield Steelers: Aaron Fox gets right response at Guildford Flames but plenty of work still to be done

AARON FOX felt Sheffield Steelers ‘answered the bell’ with their bounce back win at Guildford Flames, as they went top of the Elite League standings.

RIGHT TIME< RIGHT PLACE: Sheffield Steelers' John Armstrong levels in the first period with a delayed penalty goal, but the hosts went down 6-4 at home to Guildford Flames on Saturday. Picture courtesy of Dean Wolley.
RIGHT TIME< RIGHT PLACE: Sheffield Steelers' John Armstrong levels in the first period with a delayed penalty goal, but the hosts went down 6-4 at home to Guildford Flames on Saturday. Picture courtesy of Dean Wolley.

The Steelers were hurting heading down to Surrey after a Saturday night performance that left Fox far from happy when they came off second-best in front of their home fans as the Flames ran out deserved 6-4 winners at Sheffield Arena.

But the bus journey home was a far happier one when they were quickly able to even the score with a 6-3 victory at The Spectrum.

“I felt we needed to come out early with a push back and we had a great first 20 and then finished that game for a full 60,” said Steelers’ head coach Fox.

“We didn’t play very well on Saturday at home in front of our own fans and we challenged guys in the meeting and video session earlier today and I feel like they answered the bell in Guildford. It was a good win for us.”

With Fox’s criticisms no doubt still ringing in their ears, the Steelers raced into a 3-0 lead inside 22 minutes, Martin Latal’s third-minute power play strike being improved upon by two goals from Robert Dowd.

Jesper Alasaari reduced the deficit for the Flames at 26.08, but it was the third period where the Steelers ensured the night was to be theirs with two goals in the space of a minute.

Dowd sealed a memorable night when firing home from the circle to complete his hat-trick at 48.42, his strike coming just 58 seconds after Justin Hodgman had made it 4-1.

Sheffield Steelers' goal comes under pressure in Guildford in Sunday night's 6-3 win. Picture: John Uwins/EIHL.

A second Flames power play strike, this time from Brett Ferguson at 56.19 was followed by a Mac Howlett effort with 48 seconds left on the clock.

But it was always a case of too little, too late, Jonathan Phillips adding an empty-netter with a second remaining to seal the win.

Fox was pleased with the response from his players, particularly after his disappointment in their Saturday showing, which he felt suggested their previous wins over Cardiff and Coventry had been slightly fortunate.

“It was one of those nights where we didn’t do enough defensively, we weren’t ready to win the battles and there were too many soft plays in our D zone,” added Fox.

MIXED WEEKEND: Head coach Aaron Fox was pleased with response he got from his Sheffield Steelers team at guildford Flames on Sunday night. Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley

“I felt like our transition to defence was probably the difference tonight as it really just wasn’t good enough.

“We were fortunate to win those games against Cardiff and in Coventry, to get those four points, it was maybe a case of a little smoke and mirrors with some guys thinking it was going to be easy.”

The main positive for the Steelers on Saturday was Alex Graham scoring on his return to the team, after he was released by OHL outfit Niagara IceDogs last week.

By the time he found the net in the final minute, however, the damage had been done by a clinical Flames side.

Ferguson gave Paul Dixon’s side the lead on 6.10 when he redirected a Jake Bolton shot from the blue-line, but John Armstrong levelled with his fourth of the season at 13.19 with a delayed penalty goal.

But three goals in six second period minutes from the visitors is where the game was effectively won and lost,

Tristan Frei restoring the Flames’ lead at 26.39 before John Dunbar cut through neutral ice to fire a wrist shot into the roof of the net just over two minutes later.

A deflected effort from Ian McNulty made it 4-1 at 32.22 although after Brendan Connolly poked home on the power play with 52 seconds of the second period remaining there was hope for the hosts.

But the next goal, when it came, put paid to those hopes, the Flames’ Levi Cable reacting quickest when his initial shot hit the post at 47.20. And although Marc-Olivier Vallerand blasted past Kevin Lindskoug with 8.06 remaining, a second of the night for Frei - this time shorthanded - secured the points at 57.41, Graham netting what proved to be nothing more than a consolation strike.