SHEFFIELD Steelers may have stretched their unbeaten run to 11 games, but Friday night’s 4-4 draw at Cardiff Devils only heralded their exit from the Challenge Cup.
In a typically feisty game between the two teams – once briefly owned by the same company before it went bust in the summer – it was Cardiff who did just enough to confirm their place in the semi-finals against the Belfast Giants.
After a goalless first period, it was the Steelers who broke the deadlock in the 21st minute through Jeff Legue.
Cardiff got themselves ahead with two goals in four minutes from Kenton Smith and Jeff Pierce before Legue levelled at 27.04.
Steelers went in front at the end of the second when Colt King pounced for his 11th goal of the season on the powerplay.
But the Devils pulled level through captain Stuart Macrae at 46.40, helped by a powerplay brought about by Steelers’ captain Jonathan Phillips being sent to the box on a slashing call.
As tensions rose, an altercation between Steelers’ Mark Thomas and Cardiff’s Max Birbraer saw both thrown out in the 51st minute, just shortly before Macrae’s second of the night gave his team the lead once again.
And although Mike Ramsay levelled the scores with just over six minutes remaining, Steelers couldn’t find the all-important winner, leaving them to feel like losers as Cardiff celebrated going through from Group B on goal difference.
After their long trip back from South Wales, Ryan Finnerty’s team will enjoy a short rest period before the eagerly-anticipated festive double header against Nottingham Panthers.
The first match is at 5pm on Boxing Day at the Motorpoint Arena, before the rivals do it all again in Nottingham the following day (4pm).
For ticket information relating to the Boxing Day game in Sheffield contact 0114 256 5656 or visit http://www.sheffieldsteelers.co.uk/