Trio of quick goals defeats Blaze in Sheffield
Three goals in as many minutes helped the Sheffield Steelers to a 3-1 victory over the Genting Casino Coventry Blaze at the Sheffield Arena.
Danny Stewart’s side travelled North without Assistant Captain Ryan Dingle and Swedish defenceman Gustav Ahnelov, whilst Paul Thompson welcomed back Levi Nelson to the home bench after the dynamic forward missed the 7-2 defeat to Milton Keynes Lighting the night before.
Prior to the trio of quick strikes, Steelers’ Zack Fitzgerald was to fight Blaze’s Dax Lauwers following an accessed check to the head by the Coventry man on Andreas Jamtin. Lauwers receiving 2+10 checking to the head plus 5 for fighting, Fitzgerald getting a 2+10 penalty for instigating and 5 for fighting.
Shortly after, Great Britain star Robert Dowd lit the lamp first finishing an Andreas Valdix cross-ice pass for 1-0 (6.37). The Swedish Valdix doubled the home sides lead on the powerplay (8.28), their only success from 5 attempts. Blaze failing to take advantage of four opportunities of their own with the man advantage. It was a contentious strike though with Blaze arguing for a goalie interference, referee Jan Schmejkal waving the protests away.
Colton Fretter in-close made it 3-0 (9.18) resulting in Blaze Head Coach Danny Stewart calling an early time-out.
On a break-away, Marco Vallerand registered his 15th of the Elite League season for 3-1 (17.14), tying the Canadian level with Brahead Clan’s Brendan Brooks for top goal-scorer.
Despite both sides creating good chances in the middle period, the best being one-on-one opportunities for Coventry’s Kevin Noble and Sheffield's Tim Wallace, neither goalie was to be beaten.
It was a similar story in the third, Kevin Nastiuk performing heroics to keep the Steelers at three. The Canadian picking up the Blaze Man of the Match award making 28 saves from 31 shots. Latvian Ervins Mustukovs at the other end stopping 23 of 24.
Despite no further scoring, before the game was to end 3-1, Coventry’s Danick Paquette was involved in an incident which saw him push a linesman away from him following a scuffle with Colton Fretter and then Fitzgerald. The feisty forward being shown his way to the locker-room with a 10-minute misconduct penalty for abuse of official.
In the closing minutes, with Nastiuk pulled for the extra skater, a hard shot from the blue-line was to hit Steelers defenceman Fitzgerald in the face. The tough-guy falling straight to the ice and after a lengthily stoppage being helped off by teammates to receive medical attention.
Head Coach Danny Stewart said, “I thought we came out strong in the first few shifts and did some good things. We lost an assignment on their first goal which gave them an easy one and some momentum. I will have to watch the video, but from what I saw from the bench, their second was a blatant goalie interference penalty and shouldn’t have counted. Even though it was a very bad non-call, we must re-set there, and unfortunately, we gave up another. From then we battled and competed with what we had left.
Our defence particularly were gassed after double shifting in the first (due to the Lauwers penalty), and a very physical game last night. Although the results didn’t go our way, the guys gave me everything this week and hopefully we can get healthy and take that through to next week."