SHEFFIELD STEELERS’ player-coach Ben Simon insists his players will remain “grounded” despite seeing his team take a significant step towards a third Elite League title.
The Steelers came out on top in their double-header against rivals Cardiff Devils, clinching a four-point weekend by following up a hard-fought 5-4 win in overtime in South Wales with a rather more comfortable 5-2 triumph on home ice last night.
Steelers sit seven points clear at the top with Cardiff having dropped to third after a 3-1 road win by Belfast against the Dundee Stars took them up to second.
Simon stressed his players would keep their feet firmly on the ground with a number of tough matches still to come.
“We’re in a position now that if we take care of our business we don’t have to rely on other teams losing. It’s in our hands and anytime that you can control your own destiny, you can’t ask for anything better,” said Simon.
“There is no danger of anyone in our dressing room getting ahead of themselves. That is a key attribute of this team. We have an experienced team, guys that have had success either in North America or in Europe or in this league before. Those experiences will help keep things settled here.”
Looking to exact swift revenge, Cardiff got of to the best possible start in Sheffield last night when they took a third-minute lead through Stuart Macrae.
The Steelers pulled level at 7.21 through Robert Dowd and went into the first break ahead through Rob Globke’s 16th-minute strike.
In the 36th minute Derek Campbell fed Jeff Legue, who fired home past Steve Lyle to make it 3-1.
Ashley Tait pressured former NHLer Craig Weller into a mistake which enabled the GB international to race away for a 47th-minute shorthanded effort. Dowd grabbed his second before Alex Symonds grabbed a consolation for Cardiff at 57.07.
Defenceman Mark Thomas proved the Steelers’ hero in Cardiff 24 hours earlier when he fired home the winner in the second minute of overtime.
Simon had given the Steelers an early lead before Scott Matzka levelled. Weller edged the Devils ahead but Matzka made it 3-1.
Dowd made it a one-goal game and Rod Sarich’s powerplay strike levelled matters. Legue edged the visitors ahead but Matzka’s 59th-minute equaliser ensured Thomas had to be the hero.
Hull Stingrays endured a miserable weekend, their hopes of a top-six regular season finish severely dented by defeats at home to Coventry Blaze and Braehead Clan. Goals from Luke Fulghum and Russell Cowley outweighed Stingrays’ captain Kurtis Dulle’s effort on Saturday before further misery followed in a 3-2 defeat against sixth-placed Braehead.
Lee Esders struck to cancel out Kyle Bruce’s opener for the Clan, but the visitors went into a two-goal lead through Dominic Noel and Jordan Krestanovich.
Dulle scored his second of the weekend but Sylvain Cloutier’s side still fell further behind their mid-table rivals.