Steelers see off resilient Blaze
A three-goal second period for the Sheffield Steelers proved the difference as a resilient Coventry Blaze lost an entertaining encounter 6-4 in their sixth game of the 2021 Elite Series.
The Blaze iced an unchanged line-up, with Shane Owen in goal, while the Steelers continued with talented young British netminder Ben Churchfield between the pipes.
The Steelers enjoyed more of the early offensive pressure, but it was the Blaze who took the lead through Tristan Keck, who banked the puck into the net off Churchfield after picking up a rebound off the back boards at 4.09.
The Blaze killed the first penalty of the evening after Max Krogdahl was called for tripping as the Steelers were on a two-on-one break. Then a fanned shot from Nicolai Bryhnisveen led to a break from the impressive Liam Kirk, who was denied a scoring chance by good defensive work by David Clements.
After Jonathan Phillips gave away a two-minute penalty for hooking, the Blaze converted their first powerplay opportunity of the game when Luke Ferrara picked up a loose puck following good work in front of the net by Sam Duggan and fired it home to make it 2-0 at 13.43.
The Steelers continued to put pressure on the Blaze, with Owen making some good saves, and finished the period on the powerplay after Krogdahl was called for tripping with seven seconds remaining.
The Steelers made an ideal start to the second period when Tanner Eberle tipped a Liam Kirk shot past Owen on the powerplay at 21.05. The Steelers continued to exert pressure on the Blaze goal, forcing Owen into a number of good saves. The pressure resulted in another powerplay opportunity after Owen was called for tripping, with the Steelers left rueing that the ref blew the whistle just before Dowd put the puck in the net.
After the Blaze killed another penalty, the Steelers pressure finally paid dividends when Jonathan Phillips tipped a shot from the point from David Phillips past Owen at 36.08, and just 35 seconds later they were in front when Kirk tipped a speculative shot from Sondre Olden past Owen at 36.43.
Things could have got even worse for the Blaze when Brendan Connolly fired the puck home at 37.15, but the goal was disallowed after Kirk clashed with Owen.
Having been forced to defend for most of the period, the last minute saw the Blaze force a great triple save from Churchfield from Mike Hammond, Keck and Bryhnisveen, before a shot from David Clements hit the post.
The Blaze got back on level terms early in the third period when Mike Hammond scored a solo breakaway goal at 42.18. However, the Steelers retook the lead when Olden managed to squeeze the puck past Owen at 46.04, and they made it 5-3 when Jason Hewitt tapped a loose puck home after good work by Jonathan Phillips at 52.49.
But the Blaze weren't done and pulled it back to 5-4 when Hammond found Keck on a breakaway and the first-year pro scored his second goal of the night, and sixth of the series, at 56.32.
The Blaze pulled Owen for the extra skater with a minute to go to try and force overtime, but it was the Steelers who found the net with Connolly scoring an empty net goal at 59.59.