Title-chasing Sheffield Steelers gain vital win at Manchester Storm
Sheffield Steelers narrowed the gap on leaders Cardiff Devils to two points, last night, despite losing a 3-1 lead at one stage to Manchester Storm.
Jeff Legue was the hero, with a brace of goals - and the 4-3 victory, secured with a winner with less than two minutes remaining, sets up a cracking back to back series with Cardiff this coming weekend.
Sheffield, who had lost three out of their last five games, could not afford to slip back in the title race.
And while it was a jittery end to the match, to say the least, they got the two points they needed.
Storm, hunting a place in the Play Offs after six straight wins, almost suffered an early reverse when their American goalie Zane Kalemba let a puck slip under him.
But they survived to exert a spot of early pressure on Steelers’ goalie Marek Pinc.
And with Guillaume Desbiens in the penalty box, for cross-checking, Canadian right winger Grant Toulmin put the home side ahead at 3;43.
Steelers had beaten Manchester on the five occasions they had met this season but Storm could have made it 2-0 almost straight after breaking the deadlock.
A string of penalties put Storm under pressure at the other end and, on a five-on-three Power Play, Jeff Legue brought the champions level, on ten minutes.
Steelers marksman Mathieu Roy can’t score when he’s in the penalty box - and he save the insides of the sin bin twice in five minutes, for roughing and then slashing.
Storm, who had added defenceman Paul Swindlehurst from Nottingham Panthers in to their roster, conceded the first period when they were caught out on the Power Play.
Fredrick Vestberg who deserves more credit than he has received in his first season with Sheffield, scored short-handed to crown a penalty-strewn session. It was his third point in as many games.
If Steelers coach Paul Thompson was happy with the lead, and the fact his side had outshot their hosts 13-8, he didn’t show it at the first break, exchanging a few sharp words with the referee, Paul Staniforth.
His mood won’t have been helped when first Jace Coyle and then Conny Stromberg were given minor penalties.
Steelers were awkwardly holding on to the lead, and the physical presence of Zack Fitzgerald and Desbiens was visibly throwing itself into defending duties whenever that was needed.
Sheffield’s youngest skater Luke Ferrara put some daylight between the side when he converted a chance at 34;14, his third successful strike of the campaign and the first even handed goal of the night.
Steelers don’t lose when they are winning after two periods - and Pinc seemed to be following that line of thinking with some resolute stops in the third period.
But he couldn’t stop Matthew Sisca’s effort at 48;17 - merited on the run of play - and suddenly we were back in a one-goal game.
And Storm were given the perfect opportunity to level with a five-on-three PP - and they didn’t waste it with Sisca doubling his tally at 52;30.
Legue won the match at 58;47 - a fabulous lift for the title-chasing side.
Wednesday 17th February
Coventry Blaze 1 Nottingham Panthers 2
Manchester Storm 3 Sheffield Steelers 4
Friday 19th February
Belfast Giants v Nottingham Panthers – 7.00pm
Saturday 20th February
Braehead Clan v Fife Flyers – 7.00pm
Coventry Blaze v Belfast Giants – 7.00pm
Manchester Storm v Dundee Stars – 6.30pm
Sheffield Steelers v Cardiff Devils – 7.00pm
Sunday 21st February
Cardiff Devils v Sheffield Steelers – 6.00pm
Dundee Stars v Braehead Clan – 6.30pm
Edinburgh Capitals v Manchester Storm – 5.30pm
Nottingham Panthers – Coventry Blaze – 4.00pm