Sheffield Steelers don’t like losing.
A team built around the ethos, and expectation, of success reacted immediately to a 3-2 home loss to Belfast Giants by scrapping the players’ day off on Monday and ordering them to the arena.
Coach, Paul Thompson, promised ‘’it wouldn’t be pleasant’’ after branding the performance against Giants as ‘’unacceptable and embarrassing.’’
That defeat left Steelers in fourth spot, and four points behind Giants, albeit with a game in hand.
The club has recently axed two imports, including their NHL signing, Andre Deveaux who lasted 11 games and departed with a six-game suspension which the club still has to soak up.
More changes may follow, but Steelers’ struggles – they have also completely lost their way in the conference where they sit bottom with one win in nine starts – underline the refreshingly open nature of this year’s EIHL.
League leaders, Nottingham Panthers, were given another reminder of how everything is up for grabs now as they toppled to a zero point weekend, losing 2-1 to Cardiff Devils and 5-3 to newcomers Guildford Flames.
Those results saw them tumble into third spot, again with a clutch of games in hand.
For Flames, it was their sixth win in seven games – a smart run of results which has cemented them very much into play-off zone, and, if that continues, it will be at the expense of one of the more established EIHL teams next spring.
Flames sealed the deal with two empty-net goals to complete a miserable weekend for Panthers, but they didn’t get it all their own way in Cardiff where the Devils skated to a good 4-2 victory.
The Welsh side were 3-0 up and looking good before Flames rallied to within one goal to set up a great finale. Jake Morissette put the result beyond doubt when he fired the puck into an empty net with 24 seconds to go
It was a zero-point weekend too for Manchester Storm, the league’s early pacesetters, as they shipped 11 goals over two nights.
Storm went down 6-4 at home to Belfast who saw Blair Riley net twice, including a short-handed counter.
They then headed north to Dundee where they went down 5-3 to a Stars side that was on a six-game losing streak but which, once again, plucked a good result out of the air just when they needed it most.
This time it was a third period rally which secured the points, and set the club up nicely for Wednesday night’s Challenge Cup head to head with Steelers.
They’ll be watching Tommo’s hairdryer approach with interest, and, on current form, might just fancy their chances of a first leg win as Steelers make the long drive north to Tayside.
Coventry Blaze were another aside in need of a good weekend, and they finally got on with a four-point haul against two Scottish sides.
They kick-started with a 4-3 OT victory over Braehead Clan, with skipper Jordan Pietrus netting the overtime winner to snap a seven-game losing streak.
Blaze did find themselves 2-0 down at a bone-chillingly cold Murrayfield, but finally warmed up and skated to a big 4-2 win.
That was one of Edinburgh’s ‘’must win’’ games as they try desperately to cling on at the bottom of the table.
Capitals are now in real trouble, nine adrift from second bottom Dundee,and 17 points away from Blaze and MK Lightning who currently tie for the last of the eight play-off spots.
Off the ice, the fans are still waiting on clarity over where the club is headed , and who exactly is at the helm. It is a club in desperate need of direction in the front office and on the bench. A loss in Dundee this weekend will only darken the gloom ...