IF you had asked Paul Thompson last Friday what the worst possible outcome would be from the weekend, it would have been two defeats for his Sheffield Steelers team while their two main title rivals picked up maximum four-point hauls.
Sadly, that is exactly what happened.
The five-time Elite League champions exited their weekend double header on home ice against Belfast Giants with nothing to show for their efforts.
Leaders Cardiff Devils also profited, following up Saturday’s 5-0 hammering of Nottingham in South Wales with a 2-1 triumph on the road at Fife Flyers.
What it all means is that the Steelers now lie seven points adrift of second-placed Belfast, while the Devils are a further point ahead.
“Over the weekend we were beaten by the better team,” admitted Thompson. “They played hard. Their penalty kill was great, ours wasn’t, their power play got it done, ours didn’t. We’ve got to be accountable.
“There will be a lot of criticism and flak, and rightly so because we were poor.”
Last night saw Thompson’s players produce a better performance than 24 hours earlier when a forgettable first period saw the game lost, four goals going past netminder Ervins Mustukovs with far too much ease and nothing to show by way of a reply.
That eventually came in the 36th minute from the stick of Colton Fretter, but only after the Giants’ Blair Riley had added to the earlier efforts from Chris Higgins, Mike Quesnele and David Rutherford (2).
A last-minute strike was forced in by young British forward Luke Ferrara.
Yesterday evening, Ferrara and Mathieu Roy fired past Stephen Murphy inside the first 10 minutes.
But by the end of the second period the Giants were ahead, with goals from Colin Shield, Riley and Rutherford.
Levi Nelson levelled before Steve Saviano struck twice in as many minutes to silence the home crowd, Yared Hagos grabbing a late consolation.