Nomad Astana player Alexander Dolgushev and Sheffield captain Jonathan Phillips battle at the boards. Photo: Alisa Keptyukha
Beats Sheffield 5-1 on opening day
It was history repeating for the Sheffield Steelers. Like in the last round they suffered a high loss, this time 5-1 to new leader Nomad Astana.
The Kazakh champion leads the 2018 IIHF Continental Cup Final after Day 1 and a flawless performance against Great Britain’s Sheffield Steelers.
The farm team of KHL side Barys Astana had a strong start and with efficient offence prevented the British from finding back into the game despite its second-period effort.
“We played well, we knew the English team would be a serious opponent. The score doesn’t reflect the game, we were lucky sometimes. They were active in the first period and made it tough for us but we turned it around in the second and third period and won,” said Valeri Gurin, who scored the game-winning goal and had a helper.
Andrei Yakovlev gave Nomad the lead after less than two minutes of play but a major penalty for kneeing against Ilya Kovzalov, who injured Sheffield’s top scorer Robert Dowd, gave the British the chance to come back. However, the Steelers did too little from the opportunity and created a few scoring chances in the first period. And a Gurin goal early into the second frame didn’t make their job any easier.
Nomad took three consecutive minor penalties and gave Sheffield the chance to outshot their Kazakh opponents but Vladimir Kramar kept his net clean and the Steelers had a nightmarish start into the third period taking two penalties in the first minute. The Kazakhs accepted the invitation to score.
During the five-on-three Gurin sent a short horizontal pass to the crease that found Nikita Mikhailis on the left and from him the puck found its way into the net. 50 seconds later the Kazakhs also capitalized on the second penalty with Alikhan Asetov’s 4-0 goal while playing five on four.
Six minutes later and with the next man advantage Nomad made it 5-0. After a long shot from defenceman Vladimir Grebenshikov, Mikhailis scored his second goal of the night.
“They are a fast, young, skating team, they are quicker than us. When you turn pucks over and give odd-man rushes, opportunities in the slot, they’re gonna bury,” Steelers head coach Paul Thompson said. “We had our chances and didn’t use them. We had power plays. Then in the third they had a five-on-three and bang bang they scored two goals. I’m disappointed. That’s how you get punished at this level.”
With five minutes left into the game Eric Neiley managed to spoil Kramar’s shutout attempt but the 5-1 goal wasn’t enough to bring the Steelers back. The silver lining for the Steelers fans: The team battled and after starting with a high loss in the preliminary round, they also found back with two wins and a second-place finish.