The Manchester Storm welcomed their Arch-Rival Sheffield Steelers in the return leg of their Challenge Cup fixture, the Manchester side coming out on top in the first meeting in Sheffield after Linsmayer scored the deciding penalty in the shootout.
Rest assured though the lads from Sheffield weren’t going to take that loss lying down.
It was an incredibly emotional beginning to the night as everyone in the shelter came together as one for a minute’s silence prior to the face-off to remember the victims who lost their lives in the Manchester terror attack, May 22nd 2017.
The first period was wonderfully fast paced and for a clash of these two teams, incredibly clean!
Both sides put up strong defensive showings with neither Matt Ginn or the much-hyped Jackson Whistle giving so much as an inch.
First penalty went to Sheffield for hooking and the Storm looked dead cert to cash in on the power play but after a lovely one-timer from Luke Moffat was denied by the Sheffield goalie, both teams found themselves at even strength once more.
In the first 20 minutes of play both goalies faced a combined total of 20 shots, the Steelers facing the lions share at 11 but there was no joy for either team as the first period ended scoreless.
The second period burst into action immediately as Richardson had a clean opportunity denied by Whistle before the Manchester team took their first penalty, 2 minutes for interference going to Long.
The Storm have struggled so far this season with their penalty minutes and it’s very reassuring to see them going long spells without taking such needless losses to their team.
On the 22nd minute of play the whole Storm shelter erupted into combined applause, giving much deserved recognition to the emergency services and heroes that helped save lives during the Manchester attack one year ago.
Very classy display from both sets of fans and players.
The Storm ended up on the penalty kill again just 5 minutes later as Declan Balmer was given 2 minutes for roughing, the obligatory pushing and pulling ensued around the Manchester net and the bad blood began to rise to the surface between the two teams.
The Steelers defence slept for a moment and it was enough for Ciaran Long to break through and only Jackson Whistle stood between him and glory, the Steelers keeper was just too good on this occasion though and the Sheffield side were still in the race. In the final 2 minutes of the period both Eberle and Owens were given 2 minutes for the Steelers, the first for slashing and the other for holding.
The Storm had a strong upper hand in the start of the third period as they went in with a 2-man advantage but as we have seen all too often they have struggled to look threatening in front of goal and the Steelers managed to keep the boys at bay, what followed was more pushing and pulling and a trip to the bench for Linden Springer as he too a wayward puck to the ankle.
Not the nicest thing being hit in the ankle with a frozen biscuit.
However the moment the shelter had been waiting for happened 47-minutes in to the match as a broken up play made its way in front of Jackson Whistle, closely followed by the apex predator, Luke Moffat, who slotted home with assists from Richardson and Byers. The Storm shelter went wild and the team looked like it was coasting to victory.
Just after the restart Long was sent to the box for slashing but the Manchester side could smell blood on the ice and both Byers and Moffat had short-handed chances to get a second goal.
The final 10-minutes of the game were the most tense I have ever seen at the shelter and it was again down to poor discipline that the Sheffield side equalised. Basara got himself 2-minutes for slashing and on the resulting power play, Sheffield managed to put one passed Matt Ginn who had been outstanding to this point.
The goal was reviewed for interference but the Hockey Gods weren’t on Storms side.
The nail in the coffin, however, came in the last-minute of the match as Brooks put the winner past Ginn to take the victory in regulation.
Absolutely devastating loss for the Manchester team, Ginn especially as he faced 32 shots and only conceded in the final minutes when no doubt fatigue was starting to play a factor.
The Storm can take a few positives away from tonight and will hopefully go into their next game strong.