By Alex Briggs
Back to back Elite League Champions, the Sheffield Steelers, had a weekend to forget following the double-header defeat to title rivals Belfast Giants.
It was guaranteed to be a tough set of fixtures for both sides given the importance of getting the two points and the standard of opposition.
Belfast, who sat in second place, were looking to extend their lead over third place Sheffield Steelers and up the ante on the Cardiff Devils in first.
They did exactly that. From the opening period in game one, to the final buzzer in game two, Belfast were simply the better team collecting all four points.
Head Coach of the Sheffield Steelers Paul Thompson told Steelers TV: “It simply wasn’t good enough, they’re a good enough team as it is and we gave them 7 out of 10 goals this weekend.”
Steelers fans voiced their anger on social media at the performances over the two days, with many leaving the arena disgruntled with what they had seen.
— Abbi-Jo (@_AbbiJo) January 29, 2017
Sheffield Steelers defence all weekend after facing Belfast pic.twitter.com/9IplRVj6Dr
— Craig Stocken (@farewell666) January 29, 2017
Somewhat understandable it seemed as both days play was very disappointing to say the least and definitely not what was expected.
Going into the weekend, the Steelers were a team that had displayed the best defensive record in the league and one of the most potent offensive rosters. It was almost as though a whole different side turned up.
Blind passing, sloppy giveaways, missed chances, poor skating, bad turnovers, shocking defensive positioning was just some of the issues on display.
League leading goalie Jackson Whistle kept up his solid record over the Steelers offering very little in terms of chances to the team in orange.
Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. The Powerplay failed, penalty killing was awful and Paul Thompson has responded by alerting to the possibility of a new signing this week.
The lack of goals recently has raised questions as to why the departures of Jesse Schultz and Tyler Mosienko, two goalscorers, weren’t met with replacements.
Jace Coyle was signed to reinforce the defensive core and Mike Ratchuk an offensively skilled d-man has been playing on the wing.
It’s a case of bad defending leading to too many goals scored leaving a massive job for the forwards but in turn the goalscorers aren’t finding the net.
Perhaps the league title is out of Sheffield’s hands now, but with the playoffs and Cup final still up for grabs there is still a lot to play for.