Road to the Challenge Cup Final 2020: Sheffield Steelers

Sheffield Steelers are in their 11th Challenge Cup final since the competition was created in 1997 (PHOTO: Dean Woolley)

They’re looking for their first Challenge Cup title in the Elite League era and their first success in this competition since 2003, so can Sheffield Steelers break the hoodoo in this tournament.

Here is the road they took that got them to Cardiff for the Premier Sports Challenge Cup Final 2020.

Group C Game 1 (31 Aug 19) vs Nottingham Panthers (h) W 8-4

If you want to impress in your competitive game in charge, a heavy win over Nottingham Panthers will do and that was the case for Aaron Fox as he wowed the Steelers fans on his debut behind the bench.

They went three down through Mark Matheson, Alexis Loiseau and Sam Herr, before levelling the scoreline with goals from Michael Davies, Robert Dowd and Eric Meland.

Steelers blitzed their rivals in the their period, overcoming a second goal from Herr to fire five in, courtesy of Martin St Pierre, Aaron Johnson, Tanner Eberle, John Armstrong and James Bettauer.

Group C Game 2 (01 Sep 19) vs Nottingham Panthers (a) L 1-5

The next night didn’t quite go to plan for Steelers as Panthers got the points back from the first game and took a 5-1 win, leaving both teams with a share of the points after the opening weekend.

Brett Perlini’s opening goal was cancelled out by Michael Davies as both teams ended the opening period level at one each.

Panthers kicked on and Georgs Golovkovs and William Quist both netted in the second, while Perlini and Quist each added second goals of the night in the third to clinch the points.

Group C Game 3 (14 Sep 19) vs Manchester Storm (h) W 3-1

Another home game and another victory for the Steelers as they secured a first win over Manchester Storm in the group stage.

Eric Meland put the home side in front before Robert Dowd’s powerplay goal gave them a two-goal cushion after the opening 20 minutes.

Mario Puskarich equalised three and a half minutes into the second period to give Storm a glimmer of hope, but Marc-Olivier Vallerand killed them off with an empty net goal late on.

Group C Game 4 (28 Sep 19) vs Manchester Storm (a) L 2-5

A second meeting against Storm finished off the first round of games in the Challenge Cup group stage and Storm coach Ryan Finnerty masterminded a good 5-2 home win against his old team.

Adam Hughesman and Tanner Eberle traded goals in the first, but Manchester got themselves in front as Mathieu Gagnon, Jared Aulin and Raymond Grewal put them 4-1 up.

Eberle’s second offered a way back for Sheffield, but Zach Sullivan’s powerplay goal with two seconds left to play made sure of the victory.

Group C Game 5 (05 Oct 19) vs Nottingham Panthers (a) W 3-1

Another trip to the Motorpoint Arena made it a first win on the road in the competition when Sheffield Steelers took a pleasing 3-1 success against Nottingham Panthers.

A powerplay goal from Nikolai Lemtyugov set Aaron Fox’s side on the right track and Michael Davies and Rob Dowd also found the net to put them three up without reply by the end of the second.

Ollie Betteridge did score with ten minutes to go, but it was all Nottingham could muster, leaving the travelling Steelers fans to celebrate a fine road win.

Group C Game 6 (06 Oct 19) vs Nottingham Panthers (h) W 4-3 SO

Sheffield Steelers’ route to the knockout stages received a good boost as they ground out a penalty shots victory against the Panthers to complete a four point weekend in early October.

Jason DeSantis and Brian Connelly put Nottingham two up before Cole Shudra scored a rare Steelers goal, with Jordan Kelsall adding a third for Tim Wallace’s side.

Sheffield fought their way back late on as John Armstrong scored shorthanded before adding his second just over a minute to go, tying things up before Anthony DeLuca secured it on penalty shots  later.

Group C Game 7 (18 Oct 19) vs Manchester Storm (a) L 2-6

For the second time in the Challenge Cup group, Sheffield Steelers were floored by Manchester Storm, who claimed a big win in a 6-2 success at Planet Ice Altrincham.

The home side surged in front with four first period goals through Scott Simmons, Raymond Grewal, Kyle Hope and Zach Sullivan, before Michael Davies and John Armstrong got two back for Steelers.

Cody Thompson added a fifth with Adam Hughesman on the powerplay making it a little more one-sided and a night to forget for Aaron Fox and his side.

Group C Game 8 (30 Oct 19) vs Manchester Storm (h) W 8-2

The Steelers scored freely to wrap up their group phase as they got revenge on the Storm, blitzing them 8-2 at the Fly DSA Arena.

Sheffield went ahead by six as Jonathan Phillips, Nikolai Lemtyugov (2), Michael Davies, John Armstrong and Anthony DeLuca before Storm registered with goals from Cody Thompson and Tyson Fawcett.

Lemtyugov completed his hat-trick in the final couple of minutes, followed by Kieran Brown garnishing the scoring for the home side as Steelers ended Group C strongly.

Quarter Final First Leg (11 Dec 19) vs Manchester Storm (h) W 5-2

Of the teams Steelers could have picked as their quarter final opponents, they decided to take on Manchester Storm again for a place in the semi final and the home first leg put them in a great position.

Scott Simmonds opened the scoring for the Storm, but Sheffield turn it around through Michael Davies, with two and Marc-Olivier Vallerand.

Simmonds picked up his second, but Steelers secured a 5-2 advantage with further markers from captain Jonathan Phillips and Tanner Eberle.

Quarter Final Second Leg (18 Dec 19) vs Manchester Storm (a) D 3-3

(Sheffield win 8-5 on aggregate)

The first goal was important for Manchester if they were to try and cause a Challenge Cup upset, but Sheffield were too strong as they booked their place in the last four.

Adam Hughesman gave them hope with the opener, but Rob Dowd equalised to preserve the overall three-goal advantage and while Cody Thompson closed the gap again, it was all they could muster.

Brendan Connolly and Michael Davies killed them off in the third period and although Tyson Fawcett equalised the game, Steelers’ first leg exertions gave them enough to put them through.

Semi Final First Leg (15 Jan 20) vs Glasgow Clan (a) W 5-1

Sheffield were always heavy favourites against a Glasgow Clan team, who had suffered with bad form and so it proved to be as they took a 5-1 cushion back home for the second leg.

Marc-Olivier Vallerand’s opening goal was quickly cancelled out by Mikael Lidhammar as the tie was all square after the first two periods.

But Steelers found another gear in the third as two from Tanner Eberle and one each from John Armstrong and Lucas Sandstrom made it a good night’s work in Scotland.

Semi Final Second Leg (29 Jan 20) vs Glasgow Clan (h) W 4-0

(Sheffield win 9-1 on aggregate)

Steelers took their place in the final with another comfortable win over the Clan and like the first leg, one period proved decisive.

Lucas Sandstrom netted a double within a couple of minutes of each other in the second period with Marc-Olivier Vallerand added a third on the night to make it a comfortable one for the Steelers.

John Armstrong’s powerplay goal with ten minutes to go was the icing on the cake as fans already began to look ahead to a trip to Cardiff for the 2020 Challenge Cup Final.

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