The Sheffield Steelers extended their substantial lead at the top of the Elite League table with a hard-fought 3-6 win over Genting Casino Coventry Blaze at Skydome Arena on Sunday.
Blaze were again without defenceman David Clements and forward Johnny Curran who helped Great Britain move onto the Final Qualifying stage for the Winter Olympics this weekend.
Canadian defenceman James Shearer was also missing through injury, the Steelers, too, were short-handed with defenceman Sam Jones and forwards Robert Dowd, Brandon Whistle and Cole Shudra representing GB.
To the delight of the enthusiastic home crowd, former Steeler Danny Kristo scored the opening goal for Coventry, deflecting a Blake Thompson shot past the exceptional Matthew Greenfield at 1.23.
The game was tied at 6.17 when a loose puck fell to Mitchell Balmas, and he finished neatly past Nolan Kent who got the start with Taran Kozun backing up for Blaze.
Sheffield took a 1-2 lead at 8.33 when former Coventry forward Marco Vallerand re-directed a Balmas pass into the Blaze net and their advantage was extended ten minutes later when defenceman Kevin Tansey bagged his first of two.
Blaze made a goalie chance in the first intermission with Kozun replacing Kent and they came out with some jump in the second period, deservedly cutting the deficit to one at 21.39 through top-scorer Kobe Roth.
However, the Steelers weren’t to let their lead slip as stand-out defenceman Colton Saucerman registered the eventual game-winning goal at 36.52.
Coventry managed to get back to within one goal through their Man of the Match Ian McNulty (49.01), but Tansey’s second on the powerplay (54.45) all but ended any hopes of a comeback.
Blaze pulled Kozun for the extra skater, and following a Vallerand penalty had the advantage of a 6-on-4 in the final few minutes, but they couldn’t make it count and Patrick Watling completed the scoring with an empty net goal with five seconds remaining.
Saucerman collected the Steelers’ Man of the Match award collecting five points on the night (one goal, four assists).
Photo Credit: Scott Wiggins