SHEFFIELD STEELERS may have gone down to a shuddering 6-3 defeat to title rivals Cardiff Devils last night but – with two games remaining – their hopes of clinching an Elite League title remains in their own hands.
After following up a 2-1 Challenge Cup Final defeat to the Devils by thrashing them 11-0 in a league meeting four days later, last night’s third meeting in eight days between the two sides was always going to be tasty.
Cardiff raced into a 3-1 lead after just 10 minutes, Mathieu Roy’s 39th of the season in reply to goals for Cardiff from Jake Morissette and Joey Martin (2).
Cardiff had enhanced their lead by two more by the end of the second through Brent Walton and Matthew Myers and although Roy and Mike Forney found the net in the third, a sixth goal from player-coach Andre Lord sealed the points.
Steelers enhanced their title chances when navigating their way past a tricky obstacle in the shape of in-form Coventry Blaze on Saturday.
Chuck Weber’s team had gone into the meeting unbeaten in six and having won their two previous encounters with the Steelers, but goals from Cullen Eddy and Ben O’Connor – coupled with a Josh Unice shutout – saw Steelers through.
With Braehead Clan surprisingly going down 2-1 to Edinburgh Capitals last night, it leaves the Steelers one point ahead of their Scottish rivals with games against Nottingham Panthers and Cardiff to close out their regular season schedule.
Cardiff, who visit the Motorpoint Arena on Saturday, are two points adrift of Steelers but with a game in hand.
An injury-hit Hull Stingrays are limping into the play-offs, picking up what could prove to be a crucial point in a 3-2 loss after a shoot-out at Coventry.
Hull had just 11 out-skaters at the Skydome Arena last night, but that didn’t stop them racing into a 2-0 lead through Carl Lauzon and Cory Tanaka.
But two third-period strikes from Coventry’s Ryan O’Marra forced the game into overtime and then a shoot-out where, despite Lauzon’s successful effort, they were denied by goals from O’Marra and Ben Arnt.
The setback came 24 hours after a 5-4 home defeat to Cardiff in a game which saw the Stingrays twice take the lead.
Edinburgh’s victory over Braehead leaves Hull in eighth spot, four points ahead of their Murrayfield rivals with three games to play.
They are next in action at home to Coventry on Wednesday.