The Steelers bookended a brilliant performance tonight with three goals in the first and two goals in the third to romp to victory over last season’s grand slam winners, the Belfast Giants.
Five different goal scorers for the Steelers in Juusola, Watling, Neumann, Allen and Ciampini once again showed the strength in depth to add two further points to the Steelers tally, cementing their place at the top of the Elite League table.
For the first time this season, the Steelers took on the Belfast Giants in league action at the Utilita Arena tonight as we welcomed a new family member in Dominic Cormier who joined Kevin Tansey in the defensive line.
The Steelers would have been looking to continue with their early season form with only one loss in thirteen games played seeing them top of the table. However, everyone would have been aware of the Belfast Giants threat, as last seasons Grand Slam winners would be coming to give it everything to take the points available back to Northern Ireland.
Kielly was the healthy scratch named by Fox tonight as Greenfield kept his place between the pipes as arguably the two best netminders in the league went head-to-head.
First Period (3-0)
It was the Belfast Giants who started the brightest, but by the end of the period, the ruthlessness of the Steelers shone through to lead by three goals after the first twenty minutes as they looked like they could score every time they went forward.
After weathering the storm of a few big hits early on, especially a big Lake hit on Saucerman behind his own goal, the Steelers went to work and were on the board within two minutes at (1.59) as speedster Mikko Juusola buried one top shelf on Beskorowany glove-side as Nevalainen and Dowd combined to pick up the assists.
It was nearly two for the Steelers in the 9th minute as Simpson looked poised to send the puck home as Beskorowany was scrambling, but the puck had other ideas as it took a wicked bounce over his stick.
However, shortly afterwards, it was two on the board as Long was sent to the box for hooking as the Steelers picked up a powerplay goal thanks to Watling at (11.31) with another snipe after Balmas broke two sticks back to back on the point. No problems for Watling though with Josh Nicholls getting the assist.
A few fisti-cuffs shortly afterwards at the end of the 12th minute as Sato checked Nevalainen into boards near his own bench. Vallerand came in to stick up for his teammate and both were sent to the box for elbows and roughing.
Before the period was out it was three for the Steelers at (17.28) when the Steelers found themselves two on one at the Giants blue line. Ciampini fed Neumann and he found nothing but Beskorowany’s net as Allen picked up the second assist.
Arguably the best period of the season for the Steelers as they headed into the second twenty minutes.
Second Period (3-1)
A much more even period in the second as the Giants got a goal back on a Scott Allen 5 minute major penalty. The Giants out shooting the Steelers by the end of 40 minutes by 18 shots on goal to the Steelers 15.
It was at (24.16) when Scott Allen was sent to the box after a major boarding call as he sent Ben Lake into the boards, but it was good to see Lake return to his bench under his own steam and continue the period.
Gregg Printz was the man to get the Giants their opening goal on the powerplay as he gave Greenfield no chance blocker side. McLeod awarded with the assist.
It could have been much worse for the Steelers as Simpson was then sent to the box at (24.49) for a ‘dubious’ tripping call close to benches, leaving the Steelers 5 on 3 for 1 minute and 27 seconds, but great defensive work from the Steelers saw them return to full strength with no further damage.
Both teams then went back and forth without any major chances for either side as the Steelers headed into the final period, up by two goals.
Third Period (5-1)
Despite the Giants continuing to outshoot the Steelers by end of the sixty minutes, it was the Steelers that added another two goals for the final period to see them take the two points on offer.
The Steelers continued to look dangerous going forwards and nearly had their fourth very early as Neumann dropped onto a puck close to Beskorowany’s net, but for the second time on the night the puck took a unfortunate bounce over the stick just at the wrong time.
However, the Steelers did find their fourth at (47.28) as Scott Allen picked up his first league goal of the season. All credit to Ciampini who used in strength to keep hold of the puck at the half-boards down the left wing, found Neumann across the zone who laid it to Allen who lifted if over Beskorowany’s blocker.
Five to the good for the Steelers at (54.43). Another powerplay goal on a Sato 2 minute slashing penalty courtesy of Ciampini who went to the dirty area around the blue paint and used his strength once again to poke the puck home. Cormier with his first point and assist for the club, with Nicholls also picking up another point.
The entertainment continued has Kevin Tansey and Jacob Friend squared off a centre ice, dropping the gloves after getting tied up in the Steelers zone and both gave a good account of themselves late in the game.
But the damage was done and the Steelers added another two points to their league tally.
Awards & Table
Those two points keep the Steelers firmly at the top of the league table with 16 points from an available 18, whist tonight’s opponents now sit in 7th with 10 points from 10 games.
Man of the match awards were awarded to Mark Cooper for the Giants, before Neumann was sent on an Eddy for the Steelers and raced to victory against Kevin Tansey.
It is a quick turnaround for the Steelers organisation both on and off the ice as the Glasgow Clan are in town tomorrow for an £8 all in special. 4pm face-off – see you then!