SHEFFIELD STEELERS struck what could prove to be an early blow in the Elite League title race when they edged out defending champions Belfast Giants 3-2.
The result maintained the unbeaten start to the season in the league for Gerad Adams’s side coming after back-to-back wins against Fife Flyers last weekend.
Last night saw the home side earn both points the hard way at Ice Sheffield, coming under fierce pressure from Steve Thornton’s side, who outshot their hosts 20-8 in the final period – Steelers’ goaltender Frank Doyle turning away 49 shots overall.
But the only goal in the third stanza came at the other end when Colton Fretter found a way past Belfast goaltender Stephen Murphy at 43.52 for what proved to be the game-winning strike.
Earlier, Belfast looked like repeating their triumph in Hull from the previous night when they went in front through Adam Keefe at just 2.21.
The Steelers were quickly back on level terms, however, when Jason Hewitt finished off some build-up play from Jonathan Phillips and Rod Sarich at 5.17.
The hosts then went ahead at 11.22 when Cullen Eddy pounced on the powerplay with former Steelers’ forward Colin Shields in the penalty box on an interference call.
Robby Sandrock levelled less than five minutes into the second period, but Fretter’s third goal of the campaign was enough to end Belfast’s own unbeaten start to the defence of their regular season title.
On Saturday, Steelers tasted defeat in the Challenge Cup when losing out 2-1 to Nottingham Panthers at the National Ice Centre.
After a scoreless first period it was Nottingham who opened the scoring at 24.32 when Chris Lawrence slotted home past Frank Doyle.
The all-British line of Phillips, Hewitt and Robert Dowd helped draw the visitors level with a little over two minutes remaining in the middle session, the Steelers’ captain getting the final touch.
Steelers failed to clear their zone on several occasions for the Panthers’ winner, with Brandon Benedict slotting home at 45.56.
Elsewhere last night, Tomas Hiadlovsky backstopped Edinburgh Capitals to a 3-2 win over Cardiff Devils after a shoot-out.
Coventry Blaze got off the mark in Group B of the Challenge Cup with a 4-3 home win over Nottingham, while Dundee Stars defeated visitors’ Fife 2-1 in overtime in their Group A encounter.