Sheffield Steelers get Continental Cup bid off to winning start against Aalborg Pirates

SHEFFIELD STEELERS coach Aaron Fox hailed his players after they got their Continental Cup bid off to the perfect start with a “character win” against hosts Aalborg Pirates on Friday night.

Martin latal scores Sheffield Steelers' game-winning goal against Continental Cup hosts, Aalborg Pirates. Picture: Dean Woolley.

The start of a gruelling three-game schedule in as many days in Denmark could not have begun any better for Fox’s team, who produced the perfect response to the 5-0 humbling at home to Cardiff Devils in the Elite League last Sunday.

Missing Rob Dowd, Marc-Olivier Vallerand and Tanner Eberle, but with Barry Brust back in net, it was the Steelers - boosted by the temporary return of Swedish centre Andreas Valdix - who broke the deadlock in the 16th minute through Anthony DeLuca.

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That was how it stayed until the third period when the hosts finally got on the board to draw level, Brust beaten by Kirill Kabalov at 49.36.

Sheffield Steelers' head coach, Aaron Fox, talks to his players during their win over Aalborg Pirates Picture: Dean Woolley.

But the Steelers, outshot 30-14 on the night but displaying plenty of battling quality, rebounded quickly, Martin Latal breaking down the middle before firing past George Sorenson to give Steelers a 2-1 lead 54.59.

As the Pirates pushed for a second equaliser, Sorenson was pulled from his goal, allowing Mathias Sointu to make the game safe with an empty-net strike with just one second on the clock.

“That’s a character win, that’s for sure,” said head coach Fox afterwards. “That was a good hockey team we played tonight, they were fully healthy, rolling four lines and they skate real well.

“Offensively we didn’t get a lot tonight but I felt defensively, they might have had a ton of O-zone time, but we kept them to the outside and Barry Brust had a heck of a night tonight to shut the door.”

GOOD START: Sheffield Steelers’ Justin Hodgman, left, battles with Aalborg’s Julian Jakobsen Picture: Dean Woolley.

On the health of key centre Brendan Connolly, who left the ice towards the end of the second period and didn’t return, Fox added: “It doesn’t look good currently, it just looks like we’re on a run of bad luck here, which is unfortunate right now.

“I thought Andreas Valdix came in and played a nice hockey game for us tonight, he came in and gave us some huge minutes - thank god he’s here with us this weekend for sure.”

Saturday sees the Steelers take on Latvia’s Olimp Riga before finishing off the tournament against HK Gomel from Belarus.

Gomel beat Riga by the same scoreline in yesterday’s opening game at the Gigantium Isarena.

In NIHL National, Sheffield Steeldogs will look to maintain their position at the top of the standings when they host in-form Peterborough Phantoms (face-off 7.30pm)

Slava Koulikov’s team got the better of the Steeldogs in Cambridgeshire 4-3 last Sunday, 24 hours after overcoming Leeds Knights at Elland Road, 6-2.

The Steeldogs will complete their weekend home double-header when they welcome Basingstoke Bison to Ice Sheffield on Sunday (face-off 4.30pm).

Leeds Knights – who found out they will be playing Swindon Wildcats in the Autumn Cup final earlier this week – will look to snap a six-game losing streak in the league when they host Bees IHC at Elland Road tonight.

The Knights – still missing five key players – have not enjoyed a regular season victory since beating Swindon 3-2 after a shootout back on October 23.