Sheffield Steelers assume leading role status in Elite Series after dominant weekend

SHEFFIELD STEELERS are starting to display their clinical side in the Elite Series, emerging as the team to beat after two handsome weekend wins.

DOUBLE DELIGHT: Robert Dowd celebrates the first of his two strikes against Manchester Storm. Picture courtesy of Mark Ferriss/EIHL.

Aaron Fox’s team sit top of the standings as the halfway mark approaches, following up Saturday night’s 8-4 thrashing of Nottingham Panthers with a 6-4 win over Manchester Storm last night.

There will only be a day’s rest for the Steelers, however, before taking on Coventry Blaze tomorrow night. But they will go into that clash with Danny Stewart’s bursting with confidence, having scored 21 goals in their last three victories, the first of which came with a 7-2 triumph against Coventry on Wednesday.

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And they maintained that forward momentum across both days at the National Ice Centre, helped in each case by a flying start.

On Sunday, despite a delayed start due to problems with fans logging on for the live stream of the behind-closed-doors clash, Robert Dowd opened his team’s account with just 35 seconds on the clock.

Manchester may have soon restored parity through Scott Simmonds’s tip-in through Ben Churchfield’s legs but it wasn’t long before the Steelers were ahead once again, Jeremy Beaudry firing a blistering shot through traffic past Sean Bonar on the power play at 6.43, the defenceman then doubling his team’s lead just over 10 minutes from a similar distance just inside the blue line.

Storm came back again, though, this time through Jacob Lundell Noer at 18.11 and hauled themselves level when Dallas Ehrhardt beat Churchfield at his near post at 26.42, a similar goal to the one scored by Ben Davies in the previous week's meeting between the two teams.

The combination of Mykyska and Dowd proved profitable again for the Steelers, however, when the Czech Republic-born centre dashed down the right wing before back-handing to the advancing GB forward, who gave Bonar no chance from 10 yards at 32.50.

STRIKE ONE: Steelers' defenceman Jeremy Beaudry celebrates his first power play strike against Manchester Storm. Picture courtesy of Mark Ferriss/EIHL.

Storm were handed a boost shortly before the end of the second period when Steelers’ defenceman Davey Phillips was ejected from the game for checking from behind, an indiscretion his team paid for when Ben Lake struck on the resulting five-minute major at 41.03.

But the Steelers not only killed off the remainder of the penalty, they also managed to come up with the move of the match to stun their opponents, a 3-on-2 break which saw Brendan Connolly switch play from right to left to defenceman Kevin Schulze, who quickly played in Jason Hewitt advancing down the middle, from where he poked the puck through Bonar’s legs at 43.47 for a sublime shorthanded effort.

Restoring their two-goal lead came via another skilful finish, too, defenceman Adrian Saxrud Danielsen cutting in from the left to fire through Bonar from a tight angle at 51.06, the Steelers comfortably holding on for a deserved win.

On Saturday, the Steelers had effectively destroyed Nottingham by scoring three goals in the first three minutes.

BATTLING: Liam Kirk, left and Davey Phillips, battle for the puck. Picture: Mark Ferriss/EIHL.

Tanner Eberle got the ball rolling after just 26 seconds when he poked the puck past Ben Bowns, Sondre Olden doubling the advantage just 42 seconds later before Jason Hewitt blasted in a one-timer from the right circle at 2.10.

Olden then made his second goal look remarkably easy when dancing through before lifting over Bowns’s left shoulder at 12.15, with defenceman Jeremy Baudry taking advantage of an absent Panthers’ defence to backhand home to make it 5-0 at 17.18.

Jackson Whistle replaced GB team-mate Bowns in between the pipes for the second period, with the Panthers finally getting on the board through Austin Cangelosi at 24.58, although the Steelers were quick to restore their five-goal cushion through Josh Waller just 90 seconds later. Kevin Domingue replied only for the Steelers to pull away again 34.35 through Liam Kirk.

The Panthers gave themselves a faint glimmer of hope when Domingue and Cangelosi both doubled their tally to make it 7-4 with just under seven minutes remaining, but the last strike of the game came from the stick of Eberle at 54.15.

Tanner Eberle scored twice in the 8-4 win over Nottingham on Saturday. Picture: Dean Wolley/EIHL.