Sheffield Steelers 1-5 Nomad Astana (final score)

Face off tonight
Face off tonight

Sheffield Steelers endured a disastrous first match in the Continental Cup finals at the Chizhovka Arena in Minsk, Belarus.

After all the painstaking preparations, they went behind within two minutes.

Steelers and Nomad do battle tonight

Steelers and Nomad do battle tonight

Alikhan Asetov scored for the reigning Kazakhstan League champions in mainly empty Arena, assisted by Yegor Petukhov and Alikhan Asetov.

The Kazakhs took advantage against the Andreas Valdix line - and there was more problems for that combination when top domestic scorer Robert Dowd had to be helped off the ice after a kneeing infraction against him on nine minutes.

Dowd, the club's leading point scorer, did not reappear - which is a bigger blow than the scoreline.

He has a suspected MCL injury.

Steelers having fun pre-game

Steelers having fun pre-game

His assailant Ilya Kovzalo was ejected.

Nomad went on the penalty kill, but Sheffield could not capitalise.

Ervins Mustukovs stopped two shots on either side of the first interval, but Sheffield had to do more to upset Vladimir Kramar at the opposite end.

Kramar, a Russian national, earned his keep though when Matt Marquardt took him on in a breakaway.

Chizhovka Arena - venue of today's match

Chizhovka Arena - venue of today's match

Jonas Westerling and Andreas Jamtin had further untaken chances.

Shortly afterwards fourth liner Cole Shudra, in for the injured Liam Kirk, suffered another kneeing injury, although he was soon back on the ice.

A second strike for Astana, from Valeri Gurin, assisted Nikita Mikhailis and Vladimir Grebenshikov gave Sheffield a nasty jolt though.

Sheffield had three Power Plays, and had the majority of possession, but were finding hard to get their noses back in.

Nomad Astana

Nomad Astana

Steelers' creative edge had been blunted by a fore-check which generously protected the area in front of Kramar.

While the Brits hadn't cashed in on their chances and PP opportunities, Nomad hit the post just before the second interval.

Coach Paul Thompson shuffled the pack, replacing Tim Wallace with Jamtin on the Colton Fretter-Mathieu Roy line.

But they conceded a five on three penalty at the start of the third session and the night seemed over when Astana's Nikita Mikhailis stroked in another.

A fourth zipped by Mustukovs from Alikhan Asetov at 42;48.

Two Power Play goals conceded in 50 seconds.

Steelers fans in Belarus

Steelers fans in Belarus

And it was 5-0 for the Kazakh side at 48;36, with Mikhailis notching his second of the evening.

But the sprinkling of Steeler fans had the consolation of an Eric Neiley goal with five minutes remaining.

Andreas Valdix assisted.

A hugely disappointing evening - and the daunting prospect of facing the tournament favourites Yunost Minsk at the same venue tomorrow.

Minsk beat them 7-1 in November - so pride, at least, is at stake.



*Host club Yunost Minsk beat Ritten Sport of Italy 2-1 in the first round robin game at Chizhovka Arena, watched by 3,120 spectators. Minsk were two up after 10 minutes from Mikhail Plotnikov and Alexander Karakulko . But the unfancied Italians halved the deficit via Daniel Tudin, leading to a nerve-wracking final three minutes.


**Brady Ramsay, 24, who was released by Sheffield after 31 games, has signed for Elite League Fife Flyers.
Assistant coach Jeff Hutchins said: "We feel Brady will complement the type of team we have this year. He is a young energetic team guy that can play in all situations and positions. We have had very positive references on him which was key in deciding who to bring in. We have a special group here and we wanted to make sure we brought in a guy that could add value with little disruption to the current team dynamic.
"We are conscious that we have a lot games coming up in the second half and we feel the time was right to bring an extra body to cover ourselves down the stretch."