Ice Hockey Report: Sheffield Steelers 3 Coventry Blaze 1
Four Saturdays from Christmas and Santa appears have a sack of mixed presents in line for Sheffield Steelers.
On Sunday, they comfortably beat Coventry Blaze 3-1. But the previous night they were taken to the cleaners at Milton Keynes Lightning, going down 7-2.
Steelers need to find consistency if they are to improve on fourth place in the table.
At the Arena, Steelers, without Brady Ramsay who was a healthy scratch for the seventh time this season, had Levi Nelson back. He was to play a big role in both Sheffield’s opening goals.
But first the game exploded into life when Dax Lauwers smashed his stick into Andreas Jamtin’s head and Zack Fitzgerald ploughed in to exact revenge, at 6:16.
The situation enflamed Steelers, and with their first proper shot on goal, took the lead when Nelson set up Rob Dowd at the far post at 6;37.
Two minutes later, Andreas Valdix sent a bullet of a shot under the crossbar, on the Power Play, Nelson again involved. The Colton Fretter back-handed in for his first point since returnng from suspension.
Coventry were out of the picture - but they plugged away and leading scorer Marc-Olivier Vallerand converted a breakaway at 17:14, to give them some encouragement.
Sheffield were not hugely troubled in a middle period governed by quality goaltending by Blaze Kevin Nastiuk and Ervins Mustukovs, when he was called upon.
Nastiuk had work to do as Dowd, Matt Marquardt and Ben O’Connor, making his 400th EIHL appearance, tried their luck.
There was an inadvertently comic moment when Ande Deveaux pinned Kevin Noble in a headlock - and the officials gave a holding call against the helpless Blaze man.
But incidents were few and far between as the period Sheffield controlled a side that lost in overtime to Belfast Giants the night before.
The crowd went quiet and there few incidents until Danick Paquette upset after a tangle with Fretter lost his cool, physically abused an official and was ejected.
Blaze had half chances via Brett Robinson and Gaelen Patterson but Sheffield’s grip was rarely challenged.
Fitzgerald suffered a serious puck injury to his lower face with 86 seconds left.
He is thought to have lost a tooth or two.
Coach Paul Thompson said Fitzgerald needed hospital treatment and was in a bad way - which meant the defence was now down to four players plus young Cole Shudra.
He said the players had responded in the right way after the “appalling” performance in MKL.
He’d had a “pretty tough” meeting with the players since Saturday defeat, he said.