SHEFFIELD Steelers’ player-coach Ryan Finnerty hailed his team’s endurance after they completed three wins in as many days, keeping themselves in contention for two trophies in the process.
After coming from behind to stun Elite League leaders Belfast Giants 2-1 in overtime at the Motorpoint Arena on Friday night, the Steelers retained their hopes of a Challenge Cup semi-final spot with a 3-1 win at Coventry Blaze on Saturday.
What could prove to be a pivotal weekend for the South Yorkshire club was completed on Sunday night – again in overtime – when they denied a determined Braehead Clan 4-3, thanks to new defenceman Francis Trudel’s winner.
“We probably had opportunities to win the game in the third period, but we got there in the end,” said Finnerty. “There wasn’t a lot left in the tank to be honest, the guys gave everything.
“I’m proud of them. It has been a tough three-day weekend, but we came through and everyone played his part.
“Francis has improved throughout the weekend and it was great to see him get the winner against Braehead. He is only going to get better.”
Steelers flew out of the traps against their Scottish visitors with Mike Ramsay scoring after only 47 seconds with Jeff Legue doubling the advantage less than three minutes later.
While defenceman Matt Stephenson was in the box for an interference call, Jim Jorgenson halved the deficit for the Clan at 23.38, although Jonathan Phillips’s second goal of the season - also on the powerplay - restored the two-goal lead shortly before the end of the second session.
Not surprisingly, given their hectic three-day schedule, Braehead gained more control in the third, making it a one-goal game through Jordan Krestanovich at 48.13 before Jorgenson grabbed his second of the night in the 55th minute to force overtime.
But, as on Friday night against Belfast, although less controversially, the Steelers found a way to snatch the extra point on offer, this time newcomer Trudel rounding off an impressive first weekend for the club with a winner 88 seconds into the extra session.
On Saturday, Steelers left it late before gaining the victory that will lead them to a showdown with Cardiff later this month to see who will join Nottingham Panthers from Group B in the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup.
Luke Fulghum broke the deadlock against the club were forced to let him go for financial reasons less than two weeks ago when he scored on the powerplay from a feed by Legue at 25.35.
Shea Guthrie equalised for Paul Thompson’s team at 47.11 and it wasn’t until the 56th minute that the Steelers could get their noses in front again, Ramsay grabbing a short-handed strike before captain Phillips opened his account for the season with less than two minutes remaining.
Belfast’s 3-1 win at Fife Flyers on Saturday means that Steelers remain seven points behind their title rivals in the league with six games in hand.