PAUL THOMPSON had warned his Sheffield Steelers players they faced their toughest test of the season with their weekend double header at home to Belfast Giants.
In the end, there proved to be little cause for concern as they passed their early-season examination with flying colours.
Both teams had gone into Saturday’s first encounter at Sheffield Arena protecting unbeaten runs, Sheffield’s five-match winning streak being outshone by Belfast’s seven-game victorious stretch.
In truth, the damage to the visitors was done in the first meeting with Steelers romping to a 6-1 victory having raced into a 3-0 first-period lead through strikes from Mathie Roy, Jeff Legue – with his 100th at the Arena – and Fredrik Vestberg.
Belfast – without their influential player-coach Derrick Walser due to suspension – actually matched Steelers shot for shot on both nights, but they twice came up against an impressive Tyler Plante in the hosts’ goal.
On Saturday in particular, that allowed the Steelers to flourish going forward and a rasping shot from Ben O’Connor made it 4-0 as it flew past fellow GB international Stephen Murphy at 24.22. A similarly fierce effort from Roy five minutes later also fizzed past a helpless Murphy, who was replaced at the end of the second.
The Giants did get on the scoresheet through Craig Peacock’s powerplay marker at 51.34, only for Colton Fretter’s sublime 58th-minute strike – which saw him dance his way through the visitors’ defence – to restore the five-goal lead.
Not surprisingly, the Giants came out intent on revenge in last night’s rematch and got off to an ideal start when Mike Wilson struck towards the end of a 5-on-3 powerplay at 4.59.
That is how it stayed until the midway point when top points scorer Tyler Mosienko struck with his eighth of the season after good work by Jonathan Phillips. It was Mosienko who again struck, this time with what proved to be the game-winning goal at 37.13, stretching the hosts’ winning run to seven games.