Match report: Braehead Clan 1 Sheffield Steelers 2
Sheffield Steelers chalked up their second League victory in as many attempts with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Braehead Clan.
In what was easily the lowest-scoring game of the domestic campaign so far, they responded to coach Paul Thompson’s calls for more intelligent defending, moving up to third in the division.
Steelers have now won all but two of their last nine games in all competitions.
Their skaters had been practising all week on ways to shut the door in their own zone - they had let in 21 goals in the last five games.
And there was evidence that the extra instructions were paying off at the 3,600 capacity Arena in Renfrewshire.
The calming influence of Anders Franzon helped too - he was back on the blue line after recovering from a concussion-type injury.
With man of the match Ervins Mustukovs steady and focussed in goal, Sheffield rid themselves of their bus-legs and restricted the Scots in terms of quality chances.
At the other end, Michal Zajkowski was also in solid form but he needed a spot of luck when Andreas Valdix clattered the puck against his post.
A few minutes later the same player hit the Clan bar, but the opening period ended with the first 0-0 opening period session of Sheffield’s domestic campaign.
The scoreline lit up for the first time just short of the half-way point, when Steelers were trying to kill a penalty.
Clan’s top scorer, Scott Pitt notched his fifth of the season with a simple swipe home after being left unmarked (29.14.)
But less than two minutes had elapsed when Mathieu Roy set up Valdix, the Swedish centreman making no mistake to tie the game it 1-1.
Braehead, who had just one win to show for five previous league games, needed to get back on track and Matt Keith felt unlucky not to have given them a lead not long into the final session.
While Colton Fretter was equally unfortunate when Valdix’s pass just eluded him with a clear sight on the Clan net.
Steelers finally got their noses in front at 52;09. Jesse Schultz, who scored in the 5-3 win over Clan last weekend, did the damage after being fed by Markus Nilsson.
Team defence was now important - and winger Guillaume Desbiens illustrated his intent with a painful block, as the puck smashed into his ankle.
n Steelers entertain Belfast Giants at Sheffield Arena on Sunday.
Sheffield will be the more rested of the two, the Irish side have to face Braehead Clan in a Challenge Cup group game on Saturday evening.