Manchester Storm 5 – 2 Sheffield Steelers
Manchester Storm completed their pre-season schedule with a fantastic defensive display in a 5-2 win over their ‘Roses’ rivals the Sheffield Steelers at the Altrincham Ice Rink. After the disappointment of being edged out in a thriller against Coventry in midweek, it saw the Storm facing their foes from over the Pennines and looked to not only pick up a victory in the clash but also look to get their first win over the Steelers since forming last season.
Sheffield started the game on the front foot and with the Steelers having played in the Champions Hockey League in early August, it saw the men from Yorkshire being more aggressive and having the hosts weathering an early storm if you pardon the pun. The visitors were missing a few players in their lineup and had the Steelers starting with Brad Day between the pipes, while Manchester iced their new forward Darian Dziurzynski and also gave Tom Ratcliffe and Jake Nurse another chance for the Storm after they played well in midweek.
Both sides had a defensive battle and saw Sheffield taking the lead with 2’14 gone in the game as Great Britain International Ben O’Connor fired in a shot that flew in the net with the netminder completely screened by a forward and his defenceman. Storm got back on level terms ninety-seconds later after Matt Bissonnette put a shot through the legs of Brad Day in the Steelers goal and saw it trickle in across the line.
Play was then mainly based inside the Manchester zone, with Sheffield setting up camp in it and having the home side having to soak up the pressure coming from the away side. Both sides enjoyed a bit of time on the power play, but both were successfully killed off by the respective sides. Storm netminder Mike Clemente was called upon to make some much needed saves for the home team, as Sheffield pushed for a second goal and were much the better side as the period went on. The visitors then got caught napping at the back as a long stretch pass by Paul Swindlehurst up the boards was collected by new boy Darian Dziurzyski on a breakaway, and the Canadian found the net as it pinged in off the crossbar to put the Storm 2-1 up against the run of the play at 16’48 in the period.
There was still time for more action in the first period of play, as Conor Varley took aim at the Sheffield net and saw his low drive at the near post somehow managed to find a gap and see the puck end up in the back of the net for a 3-1 Manchester lead at 17’30. With thirty-two seconds remaining on the period, it saw Zack Fitzgerald picking up a kneeing penalty and put the hosts on a power play that saw them starting the second with the man advantage. At 21’07 a power play goal by Eric Neilson saw him opening up his account for the Storm and gave the home side a 4-1 lead. That three goal cushion was cut down to two thirteen-seconds later when Zack Fitzgerald cannoned in one for the Steelers to see the visitors back in the game.
Manchester then answered back again soon after through a Adam Harding effort that went in off a defenseman to make it a 5-2 game. Sheffield again exerted their pressure on the home side and had to contend with Mike Clemente making save after save to deny the visiting side another goal in the contest. Play in the third was played at a near testimonial tempo with the Steelers peppering the Storm net and had Clemente on top of the forwards, as he was having a stunning game in goals and the highlight was a double save. Both teams played out the period ahead of tomorrow night’s clash between the two in the Challenge Cup at the Sheffield Arena.
Ben O’Connor took home the Man of the match award for the Steelers, while netminder Mike Clemente took home the honours for the Storm with a great display of goaltending. In truth it was a magnificent effort by the whole Manchester side and will have pleased Storm coach Omar Pacha with the way his side played.