Steelers prepare to appeal Sestito ban

TOM Sestito could miss Sheffield Steelers’ crucial Elite League double-header against Belfast Giants this weekend after being handed an automatic three-match suspension.

The 25-year-old NHL forward - currently in South Yorkshire due to the current lockout dispute between players and league bosses in North America - was handed a match penalty for a check to the head on Hull Stingrays’ Andy Ward at Ice Sheffield on Sunday night.

Ward, who is on a two-way deal with Stingrays, suffered a concussion and was taken to hospital following the incident, but was released later on.

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The Elite League announced on Monday morning that the offence carries an automatic three-game suspension, adding that the league’s disciplinary committee will review the incident further and make another announcement within the next two days.

That could see the suspension reduced or even increased, although the Steelers have already submitted an official appeal in the hope that they can get the automatic suspension overturned or, at least,reduced, thereby freeing up Sestito to play at the Odyssey Arena. If the three-game ban remains, Sestito - so impressive since arriving in the UK 10 days ago - will also miss the Challenge Cup tie against Coventry Blaze on October 31.

The incident partly overshadowed what was an impressive weekend for the Steelers, who came through three tough games boasting a 100 per cent record.

The 4-2 win in the Challenge Cup at home to Hull capped a perfect weekend for the South Yorkshire club after they also won 3-0 on the road in the league at Coventry Blaze on Saturday. That came on the back of Friday night’s 4-3 win on a shoot-out in the Challenge Cup at home to Cardiff Devils.

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“I couldn’t really ask for any more from weekend,” said Finnerty. “Those are three tough games for our players to come through, but we stood up and delivered every time.

“I think our performance in Coventry was probably the best I’ve seen from a Steelers side in all my time here.

“It was always going to be tough against Hull, as it was the third in three nights. But we got the job done.

“I’ve got the utmost respect for the team and they always, always make life difficult for you.

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“I don’t think my team goes into any game thinking it’s going to be easy. But I think the players are starting to see that they are developing as a group.

“We are getting closer to doing it for the whole 60 minutes and we have a very mature group in that room - our leaders stepped up this weekend and guys can see what makes us successful.”

Jeff Legue put the Steelers ahead at 10.01 before Colin Shields grabbed his fourth of the season in the 23rd minute on the powerplay.

After Sestito’s ejection, Hull came into the game more and made it a one-goal game through Matty Davies’s short-handed effort at 36.50.

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Janis Ozolins made it 2-2 at 42.05 on the powerplay but a 54th-minute goal by Matt Stephenson – also on the powerplay – brought an end to Hull’s resistance with Rod Sarich’s powerplay goal at 56.55 ensuring the Steelers have a 100 per cent record in Group B.

On Saturday, the Steelers came away with both points because they were tight, literally – giving the home side only 14 chances on goal all night, and just one in the third period.

Sestito put the Steelers ahead on the powerplay in the fourth minute, with Steve Goertzen doubling the lead at 31.57. The industrious Lee Esders then sealed the points with a short-handed strike in the 50th minute.

SHEFFIELD Steeldogs had a weekend to forget in the English Premier League as they followed up a 5-0 defeat at home on Saturday to Slough Jets with an unexpected 8-1 hammering on the road at Bracknell Bees on Sunday night.

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