Slow-start Sheffield Steelers have to change their ways

Aaron Fox demanding more Pic Dean Woolley
Aaron Fox demanding more Pic Dean Woolley

Sheffield plunged 3-0 down to Cardiff Devils on home ice and fell just short of equalising in a breath-taking end.

Sunday's 3-2 loss introduced a cold dose of reality to 7,106 fans who had been hoping to witness a fourth straight winning start to the season.

But it also posed coach Aaron Fox the challenge of how he can make his side start their games better.

Steelers v Cardiff (Photo: Submitted)
Steelers v Cardiff (Photo: Submitted)

They had done that on Saturday, netting twice in the first four minutes before hammering Nottingham Panthers 6-0 away, in the Challenge Cup.

But like earlier games against Guildford Flames and Coventry Blaze, Sheffield had a poor start against a compact and obstinate Cardiff side.

Fox admitted that while Saturday's side had "set the tone and tempo" it failed to do anything like that 24 hours later.

His side had been "slow starters" this season and "weren't ready to play" against the Welsh.

That was out of character, though, he insisted.

"We played 20 minutes of outstanding hockey, 20 minutes of mediocre hockey, and 20 minutes of pretty poor hockey. That is not enough to get it done in this league, against a very good team."

He hoped, at least, that his side would learn from their uncharacteristically "soft" moments of play and build on the positives.

Cardiff, who had scratched ex-Steeler Evan Mosey before the game, strong-armed Sheffield for half the game.

Their controlled aggression neutralised Sheffield's approach.

There were times when Steelers just couldn't get the puck off them.

Ryan Barrow scored with a tip-in on a Power Play and 10 seconds later the home side was caught cold with Jamie Arniel scoring from the right circle.

Cardiff outshot Sheffield 12-5 in that harrowing first period, River Rymsha and Trevor Cox could have increased the Devils' lead.

Yet Mikko Juussola's rather fortuitous goal at the mid-point hinted at revived Steeler fortunes.

Passes were still being misplaced, however, three times the puck was fed to the left point when nobody was there. Marco Vallerand made a gift of a retaliation penalty at 0-3 down.

The Arena crowd was flat.

Steelers rallied with a Josh Nicholls PP goal, but the damage had been done.

"Too little too late" said Fox.

On Saturday, Steelers exposed Nottingham Panthers' insipid defence and their seemingly demotivated back-checkers to bang in six unanswered goals in the Challenge Cup group game.

Daniel Ciampini, Robert Dowd, Mark Simpson, Scott Allen, Mitchell Balmas, and Vallerand got the goals, the pick of the punch being Dowd's.

He had an easy tap-in after Marco Vallerand's hard work down the left and Mitchell Balmas's smart pass set him up.

Balmas' top shelf strike was a thing of beauty.