The Sheffield Steelers continued their battle to stay in the championship race this weekend as they faced the Coventry Blaze on Saturday and league leaders Nottingham Panthers on Sunday.
With Belfast beating Nottingham on Saturday night, the Steelers knew that wins in both games were the ticket to closing the gap to the Panthers.
A close first period saw Simon Ferguson score on the power play with a good redirect from a Rod Sarich shot. However the game was tied again within 15 seconds as Brad Leeb scored an equalizer
The game slowed down in the second period and the only goal came from Steelers winger Tylor Michel as he netted on the power play to swing the game in Sheffield’s favour.
The third period came with the Steelers looking to close the game down, and they did so when Jonathon Phillips made a perfect pass through the attacking zone for Simon Ferguson to bag his brace and make it 3-1.
Just over a minute later Jeff Legue finished the scoring for the Steelers. Coventry bagged a consolation goal with five minutes remaining but the main controversy was when Coventry’s agitator Benn Olson jumped Shawn Limpright from behind and attacked him while he was laid on the ice, so up stepped Drew Fata who jumped to the defence of Limpwright and battled Olson in a classic Ice Hockey brawl.
Ben Olson received 2 +5+5+10 and a game misconduct for his part in the brawl, Shawn Limpright controversially received five for fighting, as did Drew Fata.
Steelers Head Coach Ryan Finnerty had this to say about Fata’s contribution:
“Give Drew Fata top marks” said Finnerty. “Olson is a tough man but Drew didn’t need asking twice after what had happened to Shawn Limpright.
“Limper is a key player for us and Drew stepped in and did a great job in the fight with Olson.”
Next up for the Steelers was league leading Nottingham Panthers.
Steelers went behind after just 58 seconds following a miscommunication between goalie John DeCaro and the Defence. As DeCaro skated behind the net to stop the puck, a panther’s player stole it from him in the confusion, laid it off to Jordan Fox who had the simple task of shooting into the empty net.
With the Steelers on the power-play Tylor Michel scored once again to tie the game at 1-1 but the lead was shot lived as Bruce Graham fired home to give the Panthers the 2-1 advantage at the first period break.
Limpright scored the only goal of a tense and scrappy middle period to tie the game at 2-2.
It looked like the game was heading for overtime with the game evenly balanced. Then with Mark Thomas taken out of the play with a high stick, David Clarke found himself wide open to score the game winner with seven minutes remaining.
As the Steelers pushed on the Panthers broke for David Ling to convert and conclude scoring for the night.
While the Steelers can feel aggrieved at the controversial way the game concluded, it is well worth noting the Steelers had over ten minutes of power play, in which they converted only once, and over the game had many clear cut chances in front of goal that they should have put away.
A huge dent in the Steelers league challenged means that they rely on other results to keep the championship battle alive.