Sheffield Steelers edged out by Manchester Storm but remain firmly in Elite League title hunt with Belfast Giants

SHEFFIELD STEELERS may not have posted the perfect weekend – but last night’s loss in a shoot-out at Manchester Storm, was hardly terminal to their Elite League title chances either.

Noah Delmas breaks the deadlock in the shoot-out at Altrincham to give Manchester Storm the win over Sheffield Steelers. Picture: Mark Ferriss/EIHL.
Noah Delmas breaks the deadlock in the shoot-out at Altrincham to give Manchester Storm the win over Sheffield Steelers. Picture: Mark Ferriss/EIHL.

As it stands, in what is now a two-horse race between them and Belfast Giants, the Steelers remain three points adrift of their rivals with a game in hand.

That game in hand comes this Wednesday when they face Storm for the fourth time in 10 days, a home encounter they will desperately want to take two points from ahead of what promises to be a pivotal double-header weekend at the Utilita Arena against Belfast.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Having comfortably dispatched visitors Nottingham Panthers 6-2 on Saturday night - it proved to be a weekend to forget for Mark Matheson’s team when they were thumped 10-4 at home to Coventry Blaze last night - the Steelers came unstuck against a Storm team desperately trying to force their way into the play-offs.

Robert Dowd celebrates his third period strike to give Sheffield Steelers a 3-2 lead at Manchester Storm. Picture: Mark Ferriss/EIHL.

It was the hosts who actually went ahead when Adam Brady struck at 7.33. But the Steelers had got themselves in front by the end of the first, Marc-Olivier Vallerand’s equaliser at 16.40 on the power play being enhanced by another goal on the man advantage just under two minutes later by Matias Sointu.

That was how it stayed until 47.49 when Frankie Melton equalised with a power play of Storm’s own, only to fall behind again when Robert Dowd made it three goals on the man advantage when he struck at 49.45.

But Tyson Fawcett’s equaliser at 55.25 took the game into overtime and when that couldn’t separate the Roses rivals, neither could 13 penalty shots before Noah Delmas finally found the net and, with it, an invaluable extra point for the hosts.

“That was an entertaining game,” said Steelers’ head coach Aaron Fox afterwards. “Both teams competed well tonight and you can tell they are playing desperate hockey and playing for their play-off lives right now.

BUSY NIGHT: Former Sheffield Steelers back-up Will Kerlin got his first start of the season for Nottingham Panthers, conceding six goals as the hosts won 6-2. Picture: Dean Woolley/EIHL.

“And I didn’t hate our game tonight, ice wasn’t great, pucks bouncing all over the place, a lot of penalties, but we got a point which I think was important for us given the situation we’re in right now.

“Now we got to get ready to find a way to get those two points on Wednesday and of course those two games next weekend (against Belfast) are huge ones.

The previous night, former Steelers’ back-up Will Kerlin made his first start of the season for Nottingham after it was revealed earlier in the day that No 1 goalie Kevin Carr was out injured.

The Steelers took full advantage of their opponents being without their usual starter and were ahead inside five minutes thanks to Antonín Bořuta’s first goal for the club. Then, with 17.09 on the clock, Robert Dowd’s shot eight seconds into a powerplay trickled over the line to double the home side’s lead.

But Nottingham played their way back into the game and hauled themselves level by the end of the middle period, a speculative effort from Matt Lane being deflected into the net by Steelers’ goalie Rok Stojanovič at 28:37 before, with 5.53 left in the period, Lane fired quickly off Jeremy Welsh’s feed from the corner to tie the game.

But it wasn’t long after the third period restart before the Steelers got themselves back in front, an excellent pass in front from Vojta Polák set up the on-rushing Davey Phillips for the far-post finish to make it 3-2 at 43.03. Just over 10 minutes later, a missed chance by Matthew Myers at one end was punished by Evan Mosey at the other and the Steelers were back two in front.

Marc-Olivier Vallerand made it 5-2 at 58.07 before Brandon Whistle set up Jonathan Phillips for a one-timer at the back post to make it six with 1.14 left to play.