Sheffield Steelers secured what was in the end a comfortable win against the Edinburgh Capitals, to keep the pressure on Cardiff and Belfast in the league race.
It was a lacklustre first period at iceSheffield with the teams sizing each other up during the opening exchanges. It took four minutes of play for either goaltender to be called into action, as Steelers’ Ervins Mustukovs saved well from a Garrett Milan effort.
Both sides looked organised in defense, with the visiting Capitals keeping good shape on the ice. The visitors killed the first powerplay of the night, after Pavel Vorobyev was sent to the box for hooking, but Steelers did threaten.
In the final 5 minutes of the first period, the Steelers started to switch on. Mathieu Roy hit the crossbar from close range and Robert Dowd connected with a well placed pass to force a good save from Travis Fullerton.
After the officials had inspected both sets of nets, causing a delay to the start of the second period, the teams returned with some much needed tempo. The Steelers killed what remained of a powerplay from the previous period before kicking into gear, peppering Fullerton with a flurry of shots, before he managed to hold one to regain composure.
When Edinburgh’s Jaroslav Hertl was penalised for boarding, Sheffield wasted no time, converting for the opening goal of the night just 40 seconds later. Roy, who came so close in the first period, made no mistake this time, finishing calmly after breaking from an Edinburgh chance.
Just 90 seconds later, Jonathan Phillips was the second Steeler to hit the ironwork before John Armstrong made the most of a goalmouth scramble to tap in. Sheffield were now attacking without fear and Levi Nelson should have had the third goal in quick succession, but scooped his shot over from just yards out.
Sheffield’s third goal did come a few minutes later through a well worked 3-on-2. Ben O’Connor breaking through the middle, passing left to Roy who squared perfectly back across the ice to Colton Fretter to fire home.
Steelers seemed to be cruising, but gave the Capitals a helping hand as Hertl’s speculative pass towards the crease was diverted by a helpless Christoffer Björklund into his own net.
Still trying to figure out exactly how that goal had come about, both players and crowd lost sight of the puck around the Steelers goal. With Steelers players frantically stretching and blocking the line, Mustukovs eventually secured the puck to allow hearts to leave mouths. Sheffield had dominated the second period, but the nervy finish showed Edinburgh were not out of it yet.
The third period started with the Steelers holding a comfortable 3-1 lead, but the Capitals started well, with Vorobyev continuing to look dangerous with his shots on goal.
Sheffield killed one power play, but a second in quick succession lead to an Edinburgh goal. Mustukovs saved Ian Schultz’s initial effort, but couldn’t hold the puck. It bounced up and Karel Hromas was there to knock it in. The visitors were back within a goal and a nervous atmosphere filled iceSheffield.
Sheffield’s Guillaume Desbiens tried to restore the two goal cushion, but saw his effort cannon off the corner of upright and crossbar, but Mike Ratchuk made no mistake just moments later, finishing well into the bottom corner.
The intensity of the second period had returned in the third with under 10 minutes remaining. Steelers’ Zack Fitzgerald was penalised for slashing which enraged the player and the crowd, who showed their displeasure at the match referee, Tom Pering.
The power play was killed and inside the last minute and trailing by two, the Caps pulled their netminder. The extra attacking player was helping to hammer at Sheffield’s door, but when the puck got loose, Roy set Armstrong away to finish into an empty net. Sheffield Steelers 5 – 2 Edinburgh Capitals.
Ben O’Connor maybe could have expected to receive the man of the match accolades, providing secondary assists for the opening three goals and a good overall display, but it was John Armstrong who took it with his two goals.
The Steelers next play on Saturday 14th January as they welcome to Coventry Blaze to the Arena.