Sheffield Steeldogs are off and running after claiming a pair of wins over Swindon Wildcats in the opening weekend – with Liam Kirk notching five goals and six points.
The NHL prospect was back home for the series for his first games here in almost three years and immediately impressed for Greg Wood’s side, scoring four on Saturday then adding another on Sunday.
It set the tone as Steeldogs followed the opening 5-4 win in Swindon with a 4-2 success at Ice Sheffield to give them an early advantage in the competition.
It took Kirk three minutes to find his rhythm at the Link Centre on Saturday, scoring from the powerplay on Ben O’Connor’s assist to put the Steeldogs in front.
Wildcats’ player-coach Aaron Nell scored with an unassisted equaliser to draw them level by the end of the first period, before adding a second shorthanded in the opening minute of the second.
Kirk found the net a second time, from Davey Phillips’ assist to equalise then complete his hat-trick in the early stages of the third to restore Sheffield’s lead.
— Sheffield Steeldogs (@SteeldogsIHC) February 13, 2021
The Peterborough Petes man snapped up his fourth of the game to open up a gap, in the final eight minutes as the pendulum began to swing Steeldogs’ way.
Nell completed his hat-trick with a couple of minutes to make it 4-3, which would have been the story of the game had it not been for Kirk’s contribution.
O’Connor’s empty netter sealed the points in the closing and although Toms Rutkis reduced the arrears to one, opening night belonged to Sheffield.
When both teams met again in Yorkshire on Sunday, Swindon made a goalie change as Renny Marr was replaced by his brother, Jordan.
The outcome remained the same, with Steeldogs taking the points and the victory in another hard-fought contest, winning 4-2 on the night.
O’Connor fired the puck past a sprawling Marr and in to opening the scoring after four minutes, with Kirk driving at the net to pick up his fifth goal 36 seconds later.
Jason Hewitt added a third on six minutes, prompting a worried Nell to gather his troops for a timeout, allowing Swindon to regroup.
Steeldogs went four up after 23 minutes as Stanislav Lascek and Craig Elliott set up Alex Graham and it looked as though the game was won.
Swindon hit back on the powerplay shortly after as Balint Pakodzi scored with a quick shot to beat Dmitri Zimozdra.
Sheffield kept it tight from there on it and only a late finish from Reed Sayers made the scoreline a little more respectable for Wildcats, who didn’t enjoy their best night.
Steeldogs coach Greg Wood reckoned it wasn’t his team’s best showing either, but believes they’ll benefit from not playing next week.
“Results-wise, of course I’m pleased with how it went,” he said. “You can never grumble when you get two wins out of two although we were perhaps a bit sloppy, at times, that was all.
“I don’t think it helped going so far ahead so early. We talked about having a big start and overwhelming teams, which I thought we did really well today, but once we did that, I felt we kind of took our foot off the gas a little bit.
“We’re still a relatively new team playing together, so it will be nice to get a couple of weeks straight training under our belts now and then on to the next group of games against Raiders. Overall, we’re really happy with the two wins.”
Swindon Wildcats vs Bees (3pm)
Telford Tigers vs Raiders (6.30pm)
Bees vs Swindon Wildcats (2pm)
Raiders vs Telford Tigers (5pm)