Image: Dean Woolley
Image: Dean Woolley

Sheffield Steelers defeat Coventry Blaze 5-3 to extend Elite Series lead

The Sheffield Steelers recovered from an early deficit to defeat the Coventry Blaze 5-3 in the Elite Series, extending Aaron Fox’s side’s lead at the top of the standings.

Coventry got off to a perfect start through star forward Tristan Keck, who continued his fine form, slotting the puck into the net after being left unattended on three minutes.

The Steelers always seemed likely to get back into the game, though, and on 10 minutes, Brendan Connolly’s shot ricocheted into the net off the heel of Shane Owen.

Owen made an important save to deny the Steelers gaining an advantage in the 20th minute of the first period, keeping the scores level going into the interval.

The second period began with Sheffield domination once again, with Matthew Myers finally breaking his duck by deflecting Kevin Shulze’s first time shot from the perimeter into the Coventry net past a helpless Owen to make it 2-1 on 33 minutes.

Having been kept out for a lengthy period, the Steelers scored twice in as many minutes, with Connolly tucking away his second goal of the game and pulling Aaron Fox’s side into a 3-1 lead.

Luke Ferrara had a few chances to end the period, but the 2nd interval came with Sheffield holding a commanding lead over the Blaze.

Sheffield fashioned three more great chances to further extend their lead over the next few minutes

The final period began with a 5-on-3 powerplay for the Blaze, which they took full advantage of, with Janne Laakonen firing a shot in at the far post on 41 minutes, making the score 3-2 and giving Coventry hope of a late win.

Those dreams were squashed on 48 minutes, however, with Liam Kirk scoring to make it 4-2 to Sheffield Steelers, following a brilliant assist by player of the match Brendan Connolly.

Sheffield fashioned three more great chances to further extend their lead over the next few minutes, but Owen was constantly on hand to deny them, including an incredible save from a Liam Kirk shot that was headed for the top shelf.

But Owen’s heroics could only prolong the inevitable, as Connolly turned provider once again, this time for Robert Dowd, as he put away Sheffield’s fifth of the night in the 52nd minute.

Coventry did pull one goal back on the powerplay through Tristan Keck, whose rebound goal was awarded after a video review, making it 5-3, but that was how it ended, as the Steelers coasted to a win.


Analysis

This was a game that the Steelers had the strongest hold of, but it certainly wasn’t complete control from the Sheffield outfit, as their discipline let them down on several occasions.

All three of Coventry’s goals came from powerplays. To be expected, perhaps, given the Blaze’s league-leading stats when holding man advantages, but Fox’s team made this game harder than it had to be for themselves.

Connolly was outstanding, tonight. His two goals and two assists handed his team the win, with an individual performance of this level required to beat the fantastic Shane Owen in the Coventry net.

Coventry were once again very efficient on the powerplay, scoring three goals over seven penalty periods, but their chance production fell significantly short of Sheffield’s, generating only 36 shots to their 74.

Luke Ferrara did his level best to drag his team back into the game

A disappointing night for Danny Stewart’s men, as they concede the chance to take the lead in the table, though it was a well-fought contest, and there were certainly positives for the Blaze.

Shane Owen was on form again, unlucky to concede so many given his 37 saves and 88% save percentage. Tristan Keck turned in another strong performance, and Luke Ferrara, with two assists to his name, did his level best to drag his team back into the game, but their efforts just weren’t enough.

These two teams face each other again on Thursday [22 April] and it promises to be another extremely interesting contest between the two top teams of the tournament so far.


Three Stars

1. Brendan Connolly (SHE) – 2G, 2A – The star man on the night, Connolly played some outstanding hockey and was Aaron Fox’s key to unlocking the Coventry defence time and time again, as he had a hand in four of the five goals.

2. Kevin Schulze (SHE) – 2A – Schulze played well in defence, limiting the Blaze to three goals despite a series of penalties given against his team, and chipped in with two assists, including a great first time shot that deflected in off teammate Matthew Myers.

3. Shane Owen (COV) – 37S – Once again, Shane Owen put up some fantastic numbers, doing everything he could to save his team from the jaws of defeat. He didn’t deserve to be on the losing side tonight, as he pulled off miraculous saves and displayed cat-like reflexes only for his best attempts to be in vain. Overall, though, another stunning display from the Blaze goalie.

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