Sheffield Steelkings won their first ever game on foreign soil on Saturday, beating France’s Rouen Dragons 2-0.
Barry Grayson and Jake Oakley struck early in the first and third periods respectively to secure a comfortable victory. Rouen had speed in their line-up but Steelkings got off to the best possible start as Grayson’s speculative effort from the right of the Rouen zone found its way under the goaltender’s blocker and over the line to give Sheffield the lead at 3:31.
For the rest of the period the Steelkings looked comfortable but struggled to break through Rouen, who kept bodies in front of goal and tried to use their speed to launch counter-attacks.
The Steelkings looked to extend their advantage in the second period and find a way to make their pressure count. But it was Rouen who had the best chance of the period on a breakaway, only to be denied by Steelkings Goaltender Tom Wilton, who superbly saving the one-on-one.
Rouen continued to frustrate the visitors in the third period until the Steelkings finally extended their lead with a powerplay goal: Oakley received a feed from Grayson and saw his shot hit a Rouen defender and looped over the goaltender at 33:12.
Rouen had an opportunity to pull one back on another breakaway, but the Steelkings defence kept their shooter wide and Wilton again saved well.
Steelkings had late chances to extend their lead. First t was Oakley who forced the goaltender into tipping a shot onto the crossbar and shortly after Wayne Plummer had a close-range effort blocked on the line, but they were unable to further their lead.
“I am so proud of each and every one of the Steelkings who travelled to France,” said Steelkings Chairman Jake Oakley. “We were completely against the odds but came back with a victory”.
“We had a long drive, with a small team and some of which are very new to the Steelkings. We faced a strong team which was bolstered with players from other French teams; but our hard work and commitment shone through!”
“We are very grateful to the Rouen Dragons for inviting us for an absolutely brilliant game. Their hospitality was great and we have had a wonderful time and we hope to return the favour in the future”.
“Our first ever game outside of the U.K has been an amazing experience and we can’t wait to do it again in the future.”
It turned out to be a good day on the continent for British Para Ice Hockey as the Cardiff Huskies also travelled to Belgium to beat the Antwerp Phantoms 3-0 too.
Words: Mike Rhodes