Sheffield Steelers win 5-2 at Manchester Storm - now for Guildford Flames in the Play Offs
Steelers wrapped up a topsy-turvy League season on a high with 5-2 win at Manchester Storm.
In a 56-game season blighted by too few goals and too many injuries, Sheffield have finished with a four-game winning streak and a sense of optimism for the Play Off quarter finals next weekend (home Saturday, away Sunday.)Over the regular campaign, Sheffield faltered after losing John Armstrong for 25 games, Robert Dowd 14 and Colton Fretter for 11 and there were significant absences too for Jonas Westerling and Zack Fitzgerald.Only Mark Matheson, Andreas Valdix and Jonathan Phillips were ever-present.But consistency had been the bigger issue and notably their slow start in Conference games - they only won three of their opening dozen Erhardt matches and finished third in a four-horse race.Like the previous season, they were bossed by eventual champions Cardiff Devils, who beat them four times out of five in Wales.Perhaps significantly though recent results have been positive. On Saturday they ended their home League campaign by ripping apart Edinburgh Capitals 11-2.On Sunday night, they showed their Play Off potential with their last away trip of the League season, at Altrincham, where Storm had already exceeded expectations by finishing second in the table.
The 5-2 win sees them take on Guildford Flames in the Play Off quarter final.It took Paul Thompson's men 95 seconds to score, Matt Marquardt ending an eight game barren streak.Storm stepped on the gas and Armstrong, who returned to action at the weekend after a finger injury back inDecember, showed his commitment with a block.Sheffield killed a penalty and then Eric Neiley, a hat-trick scorer on Saturday, added a second on the night fromFretter at 10:19.There were several more attempts as Steelers took the game to their hosts - but they were rocked back on their heels when Andrew McKinney fired over Brad Day's blocker to halve Steelers lead at 16:27.But Neiley's was loving taking his chances - and he made it 3-1 at 24;14 with a one-timer.Steelers' penalty killers did their job again when Levi Nelson went for hooking and once even handed forced Storm to have to clear the puck off their line.The home side caved in again and were 4-1 down at 36;26, Tim Wallace finding a way past Mike Clemente - yet Manchester hit back on the next shift with Scott Pitt shooting high into Day's net.In short terms it was tied at 23-23.But on the scoreboard Sheffield had the advantage.Armstrong, who was really beginning to find his feet, fired at Clemente as Sheffield went on the front foot in thethird period.Six minutes into the session, top scorer Ben O'Connor smashed in a power play goal to make it 5-2 for the third place team over the second.It was game over for Manchester - and second-string goalie Day was rightly congratulated by his team mates.