Sheffield Steelers remain on Elite Series high despite double setback

SHEFFIELD STEELERS may enter the final week of the Elite Series on the back of a two-game losing streak, but there remains plenty to be positive about.

NOW HEAR THIS: Head coach Aaron Fox instructs his Sheffield Steelers players at the National Ice Centre. Picture: Dean Woolley.
NOW HEAR THIS: Head coach Aaron Fox instructs his Sheffield Steelers players at the National Ice Centre. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Having lost their first-choice netminder within the first 35 minutes of the behind-closed-doors tournament, the fact Aaron Fox’s team remain top of the standings - albeit only because they have won more games in regulation - is an impressive feat.

The loss of import goalie John Muse so early was clearly not part of the plan but it has given a chance for his fellow netminders to come to the fore. First Ben Churchfield, now Curtis Warburton.

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A product of the Sheffield Academy, Warburton came into the event as third-choice and with little hope of getting any ice time across the five weeks of competition.

But after coming off the bench to replace Churchfield just 12 minutes into Friday night’s 4-3 defeat to Nottingham Panthers, the 19-year-old was clearly determined to stick around, impressing enough to get the start for yesterday’s clash with Manchester Storm.

And, although he found himself on the back of another one-goal defeat, the youngster can count himself unlucky, a stunning second-minute save to deny Ben Lake the standout moment in a solid display.

Trailing to a 10th-minute opener from Maxime Fortier, the Steelers could count themselves unlucky to eventually lose out 3-2 to former head coach Ryan Finnerty’s current charges.

Level just after the halfway mark through a precision power play marker from Josef Mikyska, it was only in the final 10 minutes where the game was lost.

STANDING TALL: Curtis Warburton keeps the puck out on his near post. Picture: Dean Woolley.

On both occasions, Manchester made their power play count, first through Andreas Klavestad when he fired through traffic at 53.29 and then again just under four minutes later via the stick of Ciaran Long.

The Steelers poured forward in search of a way back, making it a one-goal again through Kevin Schulze’s short-handed strike at 59.03 after a deft layoff from Sondre Olden, but ultimately, they ran out of time.

"It was a good 60-minute hockey game," said Steelers' boss Foxafterwards. "I felt like we were really, really unlucky, their goalie made some key saves at key moments.

"I felt like we dominated play for most of the night and it was good to see Curtis play well. He did a really good job - made a big save very early on and was then just solid the rest of the way and gave us a chance.

Matthew Myers puts pressure on the Manchester net. Picture: Dean Woolley.

"I felt we were better for the full 60 and we didn’t take a period off like we did a couple of nights ago (in 4-3 defeat to Panthers) but, obviously, a little disappointed that we didn’t get the result."