Stars present main threat to Hull’s title ambitions

DOUBLE STRIKE: Hull Stingrays' Guillaume Doucet. Picture by Arthur Foster.
DOUBLE STRIKE: Hull Stingrays' Guillaume Doucet. Picture by Arthur Foster.
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HULL Stingrays clung on to defeat Braehead Clan 6-4 to give themselves a significant boost in their bid for the Elite League’s Gardiner Conference title.

The result saw Sylvain Cloutier’s team return to the top of the Conference standings, two points ahead of Dundee Stars.

Hull, with Jason Silverthorn back in the line-up against the Clan, have four Conference games remaining, three of which are against the Stars, with the first in Tayside on Sunday night.

With Dundee having four games in hand, Hull need to get the better of their Scottish rivals each time to ensure they stand any chance of lifting the title.

Goals from Jeff Smith (2), Guillaume Doucet (2) and Omar Pacha saw Hull race into a 5-1 lead before the halfway mark.

But the Clan – still harbouring their own hopes of retaining their Gardiner Conference title – staged a riveting comeback, with former Hull favourite Lee Esders making it 5-2 before the end of the second period.

Ash Goldie and Ed McGrane – adding to his first period leveller – then fired past Ben Bowns to make it 5-4 with more than 10 minutes remaining.

But after Braehead pulled their goalie in the closing stages, Matty Davies scored an empty-net goal to secure both points and end a run of three Conference defeats.

“It was hard work for us” admitted Cloutier afterwards. “We ran out of gas in the third and they kept coming. But we got the win. We kept battling and we found a way.

“It was nice to have (Jason) Silverthorn back in the line-up, he won a big face-off at the end there and is a solid two-way player. But it was a team effort and a massive two points.

“It was a big win for our league standings and for the Gardiner Conference. The teams below us have been catching up and they have games in hand but they have to win those games.”

Sheffield Steelers bounced back from their Challenge Cup disappointment by thumping Cardiff Devils 7-1 at the Motorpoint Arena.

Steelers crashed out in the semi-finals of the Cup competition when losing 6-4 at Nottingham Panthers at the National Ice Centre on Tuesday night, going down 11-7 on aggregate over the two-legged tie.

But an inspired display by Max Lacroix, scoring 2+4,led Steelers to victory and up to second in the overall league standings.

Cardiff took a 16th-minute lead through Tyson Marsh, but once Chris Blight levelled against his former club just over a minute later, Sheffield set about dismantling the visitors, particularly in the second period when the Steelers ran in six further unanswered goals.

The rout started with a powerplay goal from Stefan Meyer at 24.41 before Lacroix scored his first of the night just over a minute later.

Jeff Legue added goal a fourth at 26.08, with the lead stretched to four goals through Lacroix at 29.27. Tim Spencer was next to score at 33.44 and Devils second period misery was only ended after Jason Hewitt scored his 100th career EIHL goal at 35.09.

The only surprise was that the Steelers didn’t score more in the third, although it allowed them some revenge after losing out 3-2 following a shoot-out in Cardiff on Sunday night.