The Steelers took the road tonight to take on the Coventry Blaze in their only league fixture of the weekend. Dominating throughout with 47 shots on the Blaze goal, they lead by four goals to nil heading into the third period before a short fightback from the Blaze got them back within two.
Goals from Nuemann, Simpson and Dowd (x2) gave the Steelers the commanding lead, but it was Balmas who sealed the deal with an empty net goal to see the Steelers skate away with the two points on offer and take a leap into second position in the league.
Despite a spirted comeback, the Steelers suffered their first defeat of the season at the hands of the Cardiff Devils last weekend. A slow start for the Steelers saw them down by two goals within the first couple of minutes which left them with too much to do later in the game to scrape any points from the encounter.
The Steelers were on the road tonight as they travelled to take on the Coventry Blaze who the Steelers defeated to pick up their first points of the season. A much quicker start would have been top of the priority list for Coach Fox as his men took on a Blaze side who were taken to overtime and penalty shots by the Glasgow Clan last night and would be hoping the long bus trip back for their opponents would be an advantage given his Steelers team have an unusual one fixture weekend.
Teams new was that Fox called on the same trusted line-up that he has played since the start of the season with Whistle continuing to recover from injury and Kielly awaiting his first competitive debut for the club.
Looking at the league standings prior to face-off, the Steelers sat in third place behind last weekend’s opponents, the Cardiff Devils who were defeated by the Nottingham Panthers last night, with Manchester Storm leading the way early with 7 points from 4 games.
First Period (0-2)
A cagey start from both teams saw the game still tied at the 13th minute as neither team was able to create any grade-A chances. The Steelers had the better of the zone pressure but the Blaze did well to keep most chances to the outside. Dudek having the best chance to that point for the Blaze picking up on a loose clearance, but Greenfield was equal to the backhand. Shortly afterwards, Balmas was close to beating Kozun as the puck somehow bobbled out of his gloves but Kozun did well to recover and get his pad down.
(13.13) and the Steelers were one up thanks to the speed of Juusola who poked the puck around his man at this own blue line and put on the jets to go one on one with Kozun. Kozun saw off the Juusola effort, but Neumann crashed the net to send home to loose puck.
A couple of minutes later and Josh Nicholls was sent flying into the boards by Clements in the corner of the Blaze zone and the Blaze defencemen was sent to the box for interference. Up stepped Captain Dowd to make it a two goal lead for the Steelers at (16.01) as Nicholls, Watling and Dowd combined well in-close and Dowd’s quick wrister went bar down on Kozun.
It was all action for the final five minutes with both teams having chances at either end as ex-Steeler, Danny Kristo put in a big hit on Sam Jones near the Blaze bench to set up the second period.
Second Period (0-4)
By the end of an utterly dominant second period for the travelling team, the Steelers led the on-goal shot count by an impressive 34 to 13 which also helped them double their lead heading into the third period.
The Steelers lines continued to combine well to pin the Blaze into their own zone on several occasions and fire on Kozun’s net from all angles.
The pretty plays don’t always get the goals though and you need players like Mark Simpon who are willing to go to the dirty areas to give the team an all-round threat, and that’s what Simpson did at (24.13) and he used his size and strength to shovel home a loose puck unassisted at Kozun’s post to send the Steelers three goals to the good.
The Blaze then used up their timeout early as Danny Stewart called his men to the bench in the 31st minute. But the talk didn’t seem to have much effect as the Blaze were behind by four at (35.01) after killing off another Clements penalty. Ciampini went down the left wing and put in a shot across Kozun who could only pad it away to find Dowd entering the play down the opposite wing and he made no mistake putting away the rebound for his second of the night.
The teams then had a coming together at the end of the second period as the buzzer went as the Blaze looked to find a spark and get under the Steelers skin heading into the final period of regulation.
Third Period (2-5)
As expected, the Blaze came out all guns firing in the third period as they looked to get themselves back into the contest. They put pressure on the Steelers from the drop of the puck and got their first opportunity on the powerplay in the 45th minute as Petgrave was sent to the penalty box for holding.
The Steelers killed off the penalty with relative ease, but got themselves on the board shortly afterwards at (48.56) through Danny Kristo unassisted on a broken play as Kristo picked up the loose puck near the Steelers blue zone and found himself in all alone and used his knowledge from the previous season to find a gap on Greenfield low.
Fox didn’t want to take any chances and called a timeout for his team shortly afterwards to reinforce the message that the game was far from over. Unfortunately, like Stewart’s earlier in the game, the words seemed to have little effect as Ciampini was called for slashing behind the play as his frustrations got the better of him. The Blaze took full advantage only 41 seconds into the man advantage at (53.53) thanks to Kobe Roth. The Steelers did well to deny McNulty the initial chance as they collapsed as blocked well, but McNulty was able to find Roth with the rebound and he made no mistake. Danny Kristo with the second assist to go 1+1 on the night.
The Steelers then began to weather the storm much better as the Blaze pulled Kozun for the extra skater at (56.26) and it was the Steelers turn to take advantage this time as Mitchell Balmas picked up a loose puck in his own zone at the left-wing half-wall and found nothing but net at the other end of the ice to restore the three goal lead for the Steelers.
And that was all she wrote as the Steelers skated away with the only two points on offer for them this weekend, finishing with 47 shots on the Blaze goal.
Two goal man, Robert Dowd picked up the Man of the Match award for the Steelers as he took his league goal tally to 4 for the season. Danny Kristo was then awarded the Blaze’s Man of the Match who now has 7 points from his 4 league games played.
The two points for the Steelers sees them leap the Cardiff Devils who were defeated by the Belfast Giants tonight and put them one point behind Storm in first place.
We now head back to the Utilita Arena on Wednesday night to take on league leaders Manchester Storm in Challenge Cup action. One of our £8 all ticket fixtures with well over 7,000 tickets already sold. See you there…!