AS four-point weekends go, Sheffield Steelers probably earned their rewards the hardest way imaginable.
Already missing three key players in Gullaume Desbiens, Colton Fretter and Robert Dowd, Paul Thompson’s team also had to contend with losing their first-choice netminder before the weekend was even at the halfway point.
It is not known exactly when Marek Pinc will return to action after being forced off just over 20 minutes into Saturday night’s clash at home to Elite League leaders Cardiff Devils.
But the way back-up Brad Day once again stepped up, both in helping the Steelers to a welcome 3-2 win against Cardiff before performing heroics in a shoot-out win by the same margin at Dundee Stars last night, means Thompson may try to get through the problem without bringing in a recognised replacement No 1.
As a result of the weekend’s action, the Steelers are better off in their pursuit of Cardiff, now trailing the leaders by just four points with two games in hand and two more games still to come between the top two.
Of chief concern for both teams, however, will be the form of third-placed Braehead Clan, their 4-1 win at Edinburgh Capitals stretching their winning streak to seven games and ensuring they remain a point behind Steelers with two games in hand.
In Dundee, the Stars went ahead through John Dolan at 7.14, with the Steelers eventually levelling through Jace Coyle at 32.04.
The hosts quickly restored their advantage thanks to Kevin Hart, but the visitors rallied once more with Levi Nelson’s powerplay effort at 38.13.
This is how it stayed right until the end of overtime, Day then saving from Curtis Leinweber and Lou Dickenson in the shoot-out, with Nelson and Tyler Mosienko scoring at the other end.
It all made for a pleasant trip home from Tayside for Thompson and his under-strength team, the head coach understandably delighted with two battling performances.
“This has been a busy period, three games in five nights without Fretter, Desbiens and Dowdy,” said Thompson. “Add to that our longest bus trip up here to Dundee and without our starting goalie – this was some effort tonight and the boys delivered.
“Overall it was a good night and a good few days for us – progression to the Challenge Cup semi-final, pegging two points back from Cardiff at the top of the league and remaining in second place – we will take that.
“Our goalie Brad, though, was superb. In him we have an outstanding young English goalie who is simply unflappable.
“He goes about business in a controlled manner and stays calm. The boys played well in front of him tonight as well.”
Overall it was a good night and a good few days for us – progression to the Challenge Cup semi-final, pegging two points back from Cardiff at the top of the league and remaining in second place – we will take that.Paul Thompson, Sheffield Steelers’ head coach.
On Saturday, the Steelers trailed to a strike from Ryan Russell until 45.15 when Jason Hewitt levelled. Freddie Vestberg made it 2-1 to the hosts at 57.55 with Ryan Hayes adding an empty-netter soon after.
Carl Hudson netted a powerplay goal with 12 seconds remaining, but it was nothing more than a consolation for the Devils, who softened the blow by returning to winning ways with a 4-1 triumph at home to Fife Flyers last night.