By Alex Briggs
The Sheffield Steelers have begun their assault on top of the table Cardiff after an overtime loss to the Braehead Clan and a regulation victory over the Devils.
Sitting in third, the Sheffield Steelers entered the weekend in search of vital points if they still had hopes of claiming a third consecutive championship.
A full strength Sheffield line-up had it all to do early in their Saturday fixture versus former Coach Ryan Finnerty and the Clan.
Two goals in the opening ten minutes summed up a sloppy period from the home side as goals from Hammond and Pitt punished early mistakes.
Head Coach Paul Thompson rallied his side and a minute before the period end Andreas Valdix tied the game at two, after Colton Fretter struck earlier on the power play.
Despite a better second and third period, Sheffield struggled to create clear cut goal scoring chances and with the game heading to overtime at least a point was secure.
It didn’t take long for 3-on-3 hockey to provide the goods all be it in Braeheads favour as a 2-on-1 breakaway resulted in Beca finding the Steelers net.
With a Sunday afternoon fixture in Wales, this result was a sucker punch for the boys in orange to take but it was time for a heroes performance in Ice Arena Wales.
Stats were not in the Steelers favour heading to Cardiff having lost all five matchups between the league’s best two teams.
For the second time this weekend Sheffield were slow out the blocks and found themselves behind to a Scott Hotham goal at 4.49.
Unlike the previous night from here on end Sheffield were in control. A resolute and workman like performance, the Steelers deserved all they got.
Goals from Captain Jonathan Phillips, John Armstrong and a brace from Colton Fretter were enough to see a vital two points return home to Sheffield.
A physical encounter, played with a different level of intensity and skill, both teams were desperate to come out on top.
Thommo was impressed with all of his side saying: “we showed what we were all about today”
Referee had little influence on the game tonight. The better team won. We eased off halfway through the 1st and Steelers were clinical.
— Sean Phillips (@SeanPhillips95) January 22, 2017
Defensively the Steelers were much better collapsing in front of again a very impressive Ervins Mustukovs as well as getting sticks in the passing lanes.
Tactically Paul Thompson and Jerry Anderson got it spot on, they allowed Cardiff more ice in an effort to maintain the puck and limit the Devils to just 21 shots.
A remarkable performance meant Sheffield were fully back in the hunt for another Championship title as every week becomes more and more important.