Sheffield Steeldogs 5 Leeds Knights 3 - Dogs hit recovery mode to quickly turn tables on derby rivals

THE latest Yorkshire derby instalment from Sheffield Steeldogs and Leeds Knights was never going to resemble anything like the rather lacklustre offering served up on Boxing Day.

By Phil Harrison
Friday, 31st December 2021, 7:54 pm

On that occasion, the Steeldogs – racked by injuries and Covid – were barely able to put two lines together, the game effectively over by the end of the first period as the hosts raced into a 4-0 lead on their way to a 7-4 victory.

But, a few days on, the Steeldogs were a very different animal, while still some way from full strength with top line forwards Matt Bissonnette and James Spurr still out injured indefinitely.

With Jason Hewitt and Brady Doxey having already returned for Tuesday’s 5-1 defeat at home to Telford Tigers, coach Greg Wood’s roster was further boosted for this Ice Sheffield encounter with the return of forward Lee Bonner and defenceman Tim Smith.

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And it was Bonner who proved to be the vital ingredient, scoring two third period goals to seal an impressive 5-3 comeback win for the Steeldogs, who found themselves 2-0 down after just eight minutes.

The visitors were without defenceman and captain Sam Zajac and while Harry Gulliver was unavailable, fellow two-way forward Jacob Lutwyche was on hand for his third appearance in a Knights shirt.

And it was the former Bradford Bulldogs junior who broke the deadlock with just 3.36 on the clock.

After being pinned to the left-hand boards, Cole Shudra was still able shovel the puck around to Matty Davies, who worked room for himself behind the net before backhanding to the on-rushing Lutwyche, left free to pick his spot as he fired high past Dimitri Zimozdra.

Jason Hewitt was on hand to equalise for Sheffield Steeldogs in the 27th minute. Picture: Peter Best/Steeldogs Media.

Just under four more minutes had passed when the Knights doubled their lead.

A break into the Steeldogs zone between Adam Barnes and Brandon Whistle appeared to break down, only for Brown to react quickest to pounce on the loose puck and beat Zimozdra from 10 yards out at 7.31.

Sam Towner was forced to leave the ice temporarily, leaving Wood unhappy over an incident he had clearly seen from the bench and, shortly after, Ryan Johnson took Davies to task in centre ice, both going to the box for five minutes with Bobby Streetly and Lewis Bell joining them on minor calls.

It resulted in second power play for the Knights but again it was wasted, the best chance actually coming at the other end when Bonner was hooked by Shudra as he closed in on Gospel. From the resulting penalty shot, the Leeds netminder was equal to the task when denying Bonner’s backhanded attempt.

Jack Brammer was a lively presence all afternoon for Sheffield Steeldogs, fully earning his goal and three assists. Picture: Peter Best/Steeldogs Media.

The Steeldogs soon got their just rewards, though, when patient work behind the net from Hewitt saw him find Lee Haywood who was denied by Gospel, as was Brammer on the rebound, only for Haywood to follow up and push home the second rebound at 18.34.

Barnes was denied again by Zimozdra soon after the restart while, at the other end, Brammer was unfortunate not to equalise when his swivel and shot from 10 yards out in front cannoned off the base of Gospel’s left-hand post.

But the goal before the break had galvanised the hosts and there was more urgency about them in the second, Hewitt drawing them level at 26.46 when tipping in from close range thanks to a well-placed feed from Brammer.

Further chances came and went at either end, a slick move between Barnes, Whistle and Barnes not getting its reward when Zimozdra denied his former team-mate by his left-hand post shortly before the period’s end.

FLASHPOINT: Ryan Johnson and Leeds' Matty Davies briefly came to blows in the 14th minute. Picture: Peter Best/Steeldogs Media.

The end-to-end and niggly nature of the previous 40 minutes was continued in the final period and, as is often the case, the next goal was always going to be crucial.

It came for the hosts, when Brammer’s breakout pass from his own zone found Bonner at the halfway point from where he sped away from Streetly before firing into the top right-hand corner of Gospel’s net at 45.52.

Young Louie Newell almost made it 4-2 within seconds, only to be denied by Gospel, while Shudra and Brown both ensured Zimozdra couldn’t switch off at the other end.

But the killer blow came with just over five minutes remaining, Bonner again speeding clear before forcing the puck home under Gospel’s left pad.

Good work down low by Archie Hazeldine set up Barnes to fire into the roof of the Steeldogs’ net at 57.02, but the industrious Brammer ensured the Steeldogs a fully-deserved two points – snapping a four-game losing streak – when he fired into the empty Leeds net from inside his own zone with 19 seconds remaining.