Jordan Owens proved to be the match winner in overtime for Paul Thompson’s Sheffield Steelers against the Fife Flyers last night. The winger netted just 28 seconds into the extra period to secure a second successive win for the home side and temporarily pop them to the summit of the EIHL table.
After their 5-2 win at Milton Keynes on Sunday, Steelers iced the same line up to face the visiting Flyers. That meant that GB internationalist Robert Dowd, and not surprisingly, was still out on the injured list with no timescale given for his return. Flyers were without a player themselves, Canadian winger Joe Basaraba on the sidelines. The referees on Wednesday night were Andrew Miller and Tom “Reggie” Pering and the lines were run by Danny Beresford and Richard Frailey.
In a crowd of 4578, there was a bit of excitement in the opening four minutes. Steelers defenceman Davey Phillips got to grips with Flyers ace Chase Schaber, and each picked up a five minute major and a cool down. Neither side could profit, and Steelers had three powerplay opportunities before the first period buzzer sounded. However, the ever dependable Shane Owen and the Flyers defenceman held sway so the teams headed into the locker after 20 minutes; without a goal on the board between themselves.
We had only played 75 seconds of the middle period when the deadlock was broken, and the Steelers fans had cause to celebrate. Player-Assistant Coach Mark Matheson, scorer of some crucial goals and assists last season, got his first of season 18-19 with an effort assisted by Evan McGrath and Justin Buzzeo. Some penalty killing followed for the home team as the Flyers proved they would not be easy pickings. They got level in an apparent controversial circumstances at 32:40, Phillips by all accounts was taken out of the play and because there was no call Fife continued for Paul Crowder to set up Latvian Ricards Birzins to defeat Jackson Whistle.
Fife only had five shots on goal in that middle frame, they had just three in the opening one, but in those five – two counted. The Flyers took the lead with just 1:58 left, converting one of their powerplay chances with Schaber sneaking one under Whistle. In between the goals, there was a second fight and a second one in as many home games for Chris Lawrence: this time tangling with Danick Gauthier of the opposition. Going into that final regular period, Steelers had to come from behind to avoid what would some see as an embarrassing home loss.
Four and a half minutes in, Steelers equalised on a powerplay of their own. With Flyer Evan Bloodoff in the box for holding the stick, McGrath and Owens set up the opportunity for Matheson to net with a blue line effort that Owen was screened on. Two for the Steelers and two for “Mad Dog”. Anyone’s game now, who would come out on top. Well with 52:36 played, Fife regained the lead – defenceman Rick Pinkston on target. Steelers weren’t behind for long though, Josh Pitt (hat-trick star against the Lightning) was set up by Owens and line-mate Stefan Della Rovere to deflect it beyond Owen for parity. Both sides could have won but we headed into overtime, a point at least for a well battling Flyers side. Yet we didn’t need the drama of a penalty shootout, the game winning goal came at just 60:28 when McGrath set up Owens for the clincher and his first ever goal as a Steeler.
The two Man of the Match awards went to Owen and Matheson respectively. Next games for them will be Manchester at home for the Steelers on Saturday night whilst the Flyers host East Coast rivals Dundee the same night; both in the Challenge Cup.
Apologies for the lesser than detailed report, I was at work (like I always am in midweek) and relied upon Steelers Twitter coverage and texts from my friend Julie Cassidy who was actually there.