A sold out Storm Shelter welcomed in the New Year with an entertaining encounter played out against their fiercest rivals, Sheffield Steelers. The Yorkshire side would get the better of the Storm, 4-1, in a scoreline that does not reflect how closely fought the contest was.
A promising start by the hosts saw them pen the Steelers deep into their defensive zone and work Morrone repeatedly in the initial throws of the match. However, a big bounce off the boards landed in the perfect spot for Allen, who gleefully caressed the puck into a vacant Storm goal – after 4:19. This evidently took a little sting out of the Storm’s initial impetus and both teams cancelled each other out for the remainder of the period.
An aggressive drive to the net and attempted wrap-a-round play by Dowd forced a rebound from Flodell – which landed to Balmas who did not need any second invitations to double Sheffield’s advantage. However, an inventive play by Hinam freed himself from the tight man coverage to slam home a wristshot into the roof of Morrone’s net and halve the deficit. Again, in a similar fashion to the first, the second half of the period settled into a rhythm in which both sets of blueliners prevented any real scoring opportunities being fashioned.
A contentious early whistle saw Storm denied a vital second marker. This decision would prove significant as moments later, Balmas secured his brace after rounding off a neat Sheffield move, in the 48th minute. The injury curse over the Storm’s goal crease continued when Flodell skated off the ice doubled over in the 50th minute.
Oldale was called into action and could do little to prevent Neumann’s snipe in the 55th minute.