Gerad Adams has to solve a curious case of split-personality in his Sheffield team.
The weekend action exposed a Jekyll and Hyde characteristic that needs resolving if Steelers are to be champions.
Last night in Belfast, it was largely positive: Sheffield came back from the dead and took the game to penalty shots, capturing a regulation time point in a 4-3 defeat.
They had been 2-0 down and displayed resilience to lead 3-2 until an emotionally crippling equaliser from Giants at 59;29.
But on Saturday, coach Adams accused some players of not caring after they conceded five unanswered goals in a torrid middle period. The coach had spent his Summer transforming a roster he’d inherited from Doug Christiansen and he’d been fulsome in his praise of its potential and locker room character.
But both the team’s playing ability and it’s individual’s mentality were questioned by him following the 6-2 collapse in the Midlands.
Adams had warned that there would be “consequences” if Steelers did not get a decent result at Belfast. He demanded his side show some guts after such an “unacceptable” performance.
“We have got guys who are pretending to actually care and that’s disappointing,” he had said .
It was against that background that Steelers arrived in Northern Ireland yesterday.
Belfast had been in a hell of a scrap the night before, needing overtime to win 3-2 at Fife Flyers. But they forced the early pace and goalie Frank Doyle had to impose himself to prevent Evan Cheverie and Mike Kompon lighting up the scoreboard.
Phil Hill, Rod Sarich and Gord Baldwin engineered raids on Giants’ goalie Carsen Chubak as Steelers, who had beaten Giants at home in September and November, began to enjoy more possession. But, with both sides failing on the power play, the period ended goalless.
Giants forged ahead with two goals in two minutes, though, Kompon and Ray Sawada.
Adams must have wondered if another middle period catastrophe was looming and called a time out. His side responded and clawed one back on the power play at 29;20, from Mike Forney, his 20th this season.
That strike sparked a spirited comeback from Sheffield, Jonathan Phillips and Cullen Eddy netting within 57 seconds of each other to give their side a 3-2 lead at the second break.
Steelers held out until 31 seconds from the end, when Kompon roofed the puck past Doyle.
Overtime failed to conjure up a goal - and ushered in the lottery of the shoot-out. Kompon and Cheverie scored - but Tyler Mosienko and Mathieu Roy didn’t.
* Adams admitted his side fell apart in an embarrassing 0-5 middle period at Coventry.
“There is no secret for teams to beat us: it’s to put a little bit of pressure on us. We worked hard, but not smart. We give up soft goals.
“Their third line scored three goals, two of them from face offs...our guys are not engaging from face offs. The urgency and intensity isn’t there. It’s embarrassing.”
All seemed well when Rob Dowd put Sheffield ahead. However, Jereme Tendler started the avalanche with his equaliser, with Cale Tanaka, Kyle Bochek, Russell Cowley, and then Tendler again all finding the net.
While Steelers outshot Blaze 52-23 they struggled to outfox goalie Brian Stewart, and they only had a 53rd minute consolation goal from Forney for their efforts.