GERAD ADAMS praised the mental strength of his Sheffield Steelers team after they came through a tough test at Hull Stingrays to emerge as Group B winners in the Challenge Cup.
A battered and bruised Steelers went into the weekend already top of their group, thanks partly to a 6-3 midweek win over Hull at Ice Sheffield.
A 3-1 win at home to Coventry Blaze on Saturday strengthened their standing before last night’s 3-2 triumph in Hull sealed their status as group winners, setting up a two-legged quarter-final against Dundee Stars.
For the Stingrays – now without a win in their six games at Hull Arena this season – the injury problems persist, with player-coach Omar Pacha and forwards Zach Hervato and Tom Ralph ll on the sidelines through injury, leaving the hosts with only 12 skaters.
Jason Hewitt edged Steelers ahead in the fourth minute and it wasn’t until just under 20 minutes later that the hosts pulled level, Jordan Mayer scoring his seventh of the season.
Mike Forney restored the visitors’ lead at 46.52, with defenceman Cullen Eddy’s 52nd-minute powerplay strike proving enough for the win, despite Hull pulling one back through Eric Galbraith three minutes later.
Eddy and Hull D-man Yan Turcotte were ejected for fighting in the closing moments – adding to Steelers’ Colton Fretter game misconduct in the sixth minute for boarding – but the scoreline remained the same.
“It was a strong mental performance - we have an array of guys injured and hurt and guys had to play a lot of minutes in different positions,” said Adams afterwards.
“It’s nice to grind these wins out and look back with a lot of pride at them. But our goal is to be there for that Challenge Cup Final in our rink and we are progressing the way we should be.”
On Saturday, Steelers enjoyed a deserved victory over Coventry through goals from Colton Fretter (3.19), Gord Baldwin (11.41) and Tyler Mosienko (21.11).
The latest home misery for Hull ensured a blank weekend for Pacha’s team following their 7-2 Cup defeat in Cardiff 24 hours earlier, Mayer and CJ Chartrain scoring the goals for the visitors.
Steelers host Dundee on Wednesday night in a rearranged league game at the Motorpoint Arena, while Hull have to wait until Saturday’s visit from Edinburgh Capitals to try and arrest a worying five-game losing slump.
“It is another tough one to take,” said Pacha. “We had seven forwards and five defencemen working their butts off - and half of them are banged up
“Everyone battled hard and I think the guys played a good game, well enough to win, but the injuries and being short on bodies caught up on us.”