What better way to start in 2018 than the annual New Years Day trip to Manchester where the Sheffield Steelers were to take on the Storm. It could’ve potentially gotten messy with the seeming threats from the Storm, however like the first 40 minutes of Saturday’s game, Manchester played proper hockey for the full 60 minutes. The Steelers were without Tim Wallace through suspension, and down Armstrong and Brown through injury. The Storm were also missing Jay Rosehill due to a ban, and Auger through injury and backup netminder Ashley Smith for some unaired reason.
Due to Rosehill’s suspension, it meant that Luke Moffatt was to be named the captain of the game, and what a game he was to have. I personally have never seen a guy zipping around the rink and being in front of the net before as much as Moffatt did. The four-man system was in place after a very long time, and kicking off the New Year was Dean Smith and Matt Rose refereeing with James Ions and Chris Wells on the lines. The two referees were going to be needed if it turned out to be anything like the last matchup.
The lines were a little different for the match, Thompson not risking Kirk and Shudra with the way Manchester could act, so he decided to go with Jamtin centering Fretter and Roy, Valdix obviously centering Dowd and Nelson and then Westerling in between J. Phillips and Marquardt. Running with three lines meant Sheffield were even with the Storm.
An early tripping call against Manchester set what we thought was to be the start of a penalty-filled night. Sheffield had plenty of chances, but couldn’t convert. A few more penalties came, but the game was end to end, both teams getting amazing chances which included a wide-open backdoor for the Storm where they didn’t manage to get it home!
Manchester were the first on the board through Ryan Trenz, and that was Mustukovs’ shutout streak over at 12:51 in the game. Tallying all his minutes up where he hadn’t let a goal in, it totaled to 314.19-minute streak, beating the all-time AHL record, which is phenomenal. On a Byers interference call 5 minutes later, Dowd scored his third against the Storm in this series, tying the game at 1. Everyone thought that was how the period was going to end, however with 10 seconds remaining in the period, Mathieu Roy managed to trickle the puck past Clemente, giving Sheffield a leg up heading into the second period.
1:37 into the middle period, Moffatt went solo and smashed it past Moose to score his first goal of 3. A little funny moment came when Matheson placed a beautiful hit, however, he misjudged and floored Nelson. Good hit Mark, but against the wrong team! The next 10 minutes were pretty end to end with a couple of penalties, but Franssila showcased his talent on the power play, sending the puck flying past Clemente to make it 3-2 in favor of the visitors.
A late hit on Byers from Fitzgerald was exactly what the Steelers needed to get the fans going again towards the end of the period, but the way Sheffield didn’t want to into the period break was a tie, Luke Moffatt scoring his second of the night with 1:11 remaining in the middle frame. It was a 0-0 game going into the third period, and whoever scored the most would come out victorious.
21 seconds into the final period, a gorgeous behind-the-net play was made by Andreas Jamtin to send the puck straight to Colton Fretter who was on the point and send it home to give Sheffield an early advantage. Linden Springer was not happy with the goal as he picked up two minutes for abuse of the official.
A short while after the Storm penalty kill, Moffatt completed his hat trick to even the game up once more. It was an unlucky defensive zone bounce off the boards which set Moffatt up to skate the length of the ice and send a few hats flying on to the ice. Manchester took the lead at 44:59 through Gerard Hanson, which the goal did get reviewed however the referees were back on quick and signaled the goal was to stand to put the Storm in front of the game. It just showed that when Manchester play hockey and don’t start placing cheap-shots on their opposition or going for late, behind the play hits, they can play proper hockey and score very good goals.
For a 23-year-old, Springer has picked up the tricks of playing a little dirty, sending Mathieu Roy flying to the ice and then shooting the puck straight at his head. Thank goodness for helmets these days! Despite the hit never being a cross-check, that’s what Springer received.
During the power play, Mathieu Roy scored his second of the game, which he didn’t stop hacking and whacking until the puck hit the back of the net to tie the game with 3:56 remaining. That was how it stayed, both teams getting a chance to score the game-winning goal, however, no one could convert.
The first EIHL overtime of the year got underway, the two teams lines looking like this.
Roy, Fretter, Matheson
Moffatt, Hammond, Stanisz
Both sides were all over each other in overtime, getting multiple chances on goal. It was next goal wins, and that obviously wasn’t to be decided in 3 on 3. Some beautiful plays were made, but neither team could dominate and bring a victory.
Another two points came home for the Steelers making their festive period 8 points out of 8. Belfast was going to be a challenge for sure, especially with their recent form, however, Sheffield has proven many fans wrong over the last couple of weekends, so can they do it again in Belfast against the Giants?
Man of the Matches:
Sheffield Steelers- Colton Fretter
Manchester Storm- Luke Moffatt
Colton Fretter 1+2, Robert Dowd 1+1, Mathieu Roy 2+0, Jonas Westerling 0+2, Miika Franssila 1+0, Andreas Jamtin 0+1, Matt Marquardt 0+1, Mark Matheson 0+1, Andreas Valdix 0+1
Luke Moffatt 3+0, Dane Byers 0+2, Gerard Hanson 1+0, Ryan Trenz 1+0, Shane Bakker 0+1, Mike Hammond 0+1, Ciaran Long 0+1, Scott Pitt 0+1, Matt Stanizs 0+1