MANCHESTER STORM 4 – 2 SHEFFIELD STEELERS
Less than 24 hours after the two Roses rivals faced off in Sheffield in what was a very tight game with the home side coming out on top 5-4, Sunday’s game was equally as tight and had the Manchester Storm gaining revenge with a 4-2 win over the Sheffield Steelers in their pre-season game at the Altrincham Ice Rink.
The Storm was still missing Shane Bakker from their line up after the forward had picked up a knock last week against Coventry, while Linden Springer was suspended as well for the home side after he picked up a match penalty in the Saturday game against the Steelers. Manchester was wearing their specially designed ‘Manchester Pride’ rainbow jerseys for the match to coincide with Pride weekend in Manchester.
Play started out with both teams cancelling each out the other, whilst the netminders were left to watch the game and not have any shots being fired at them for a long period in the first. Manchester then began to find some joy and put the visitor’s defence under a bit of pressure, but the Sheffield backup in Brad Day was keeping the Storm forwards out and saw the home side beginning to up the tempo a tad too.
As you would come to expect with games involving Manchester and Sheffield, or Lancashire and Yorkshire in any sport for that matter, both sides were showing their physical side as there were some big hits throughout and a couple of bruising ones at that.
Both teams had some good chances in the game and needed the goalies to make some important stops at both ends of the ice to keep it a scoreless game. With a couple of penalties being killed off by either side, it seemed like the first period was looking to be a goalless opening twenty minutes of play, but the home side had other ideas.
With less than a minute of play remaining in the first period, it saw Chris Auger getting the up ice pass and found himself on a breakaway to put the Storm one up. Seconds later it was 2-0 for the home side with a Dallas Ehrhardt shot slipping by Brad Day and trickling over the line to double the lead for the Storm after one period of play.
In the second period of play, it saw Sheffield without doubt having the better of the play and had the visitors almost making it a one goal game when they had an effort on goal that saw Mike Clemente in the Storm net making the original stop and then somehow managing to make a second stop using his stick to deny the Steelers from netting.
Sheffield didn’t have to wait too much longer for a goal to arrive though, as Ben O’ Connor ripped an unstoppable shot past the netminder and saw the lead cut in half to get the Steelers on the board. Dane Byers then laid a big hit on an Orange shirted player behind the Sheffield goal but the referee deemed it be an elbow and so needed the hosts to kill off another penalty.
Tempered then slightly frayed as Zach Fitzgerald of the Steelers and Storm Captain Jay Rosehill tangled and wrestled each other after the whistle with a scrum at the front of the Manchester nets, and resulted in the two serving two-minute penalties for roughing. New signing Declan Balmer then made a big mid-ice hit on an opposition player to have the home crowd cheering and see the game still being played in a tough manner.
With the period being mostly in the Storm half for the majority of the second, it was no surprise when the Steelers tied the game up at 2-2, as an attempted clearance fell right to a Sheffield man who played it across to Ben O’ Connor who finished it off to draw the scores level at 34.24.
Manchester had hardly managed to do much in the way of attacking in the second period due to the attacking play coming from the Steelers, but when the puck came to Chris Auger at the front of the net, it then saw the former Fife man on hand to reestablish a one goal lead for the Storm with 36.42 and see the hosts going back in front at 3-2.
As play moved to the third, it saw the home side coming out a bit brighter than they had in the middle stanza and saw them carving out a couple of early chances for themselves, to begin with. Clemente then made a stunning save from point-blank range to deny the Steelers of a goal minutes later.
The Storm then added a fourth goal from the stick of Mike Hammond, with the former Braehead Clan man blasting home at 50.44 to put the home side 4-2 up and all but secure their first win of the preseason.
Sheffield hadn’t given up hope of a comeback though, as the visitor’s continued their search of a third goal of which would have set up a tense finale with their opponents. Storm’s back line stood up well to them and snuffed out their last hopes, despite the Steelers striking the pipework twice late on in a losing effort.
With the goalie pulled for the extra attacker with over a minute and a half left to play, it saw the home side holding out for the win over the playoff champions and give them a boost ahead of their upcoming season.
Manchester will look to make it back to back wins this upcoming Wednesday night, as the Storm entertain fellow Patton Conference rivals the Coventry Blaze in their final pre-season encounter before facing the Braehead Clan home and away next weekend.