Despite showing defensive frailties in recent weeks, head coach Paul Thompson was always confident his Sheffield Steelers team would bounce back sooner rather than later.
On Wednesday night against Cardiff Devils, that proved to be the case, with a deserved 2-1 victory doing much to restore any shattered confidences there may have been among a Steelers line-up which had shipped 43 goals in the previous 10 games.
The Steelers, buoyed by the return of influential forward Colton Fretter – while msssing the suspended Tyler Mosienko – rightly went in 1-0 ahead at the first break after captain Jonathan Phillips pounced at 11.34 with his fifth goal of the season.
Cardiff showed slightly more effective attacking threat in the second period but Marek Pinc, picked to start once again after finding himself replaced for the first half of the 4-1 loss to Nottingham Panthers on Sunday, rarely looked troubled.
It remained 1-0 to the hosts until just three minutes remained in the period.
Having somewhat comfortably killing off a five-minute penalty handed out to Zach Fitzgerald for checking from behind – the Steelers D-man was also assigned a match penalty – the Steelers promptly doubled their lead.
Good work around the back of the Cardiff net eventually saw the puck come back out to Jeff Legue, who from just inside the blue line fired it back towards the front of goal where Levi Nelson was making life difficult for netminder Ben Bowns. The Steelers’ forward then reacted quickest to the loose puck to lift it over the goaltender’s left shoulder and into the roof of the net at 37.00.
Less than two minutes later, a melee broke out behind the Devils goal resulting in a number of penalties, most noticeably for goalscorer Nelson, who received a five-minute call for charging as well as being handed a Game Misconduct.
Once matters had calmed down, three Devils players were also handed minor penalties to leave the Steelers briefly enjoying a 4-on-3 powerplay for the remainder of the period.
When the players returned for the third, the man advantage switched to Cardiff but, in the end, neither team were able to make their powerplay count.
Pinc - first-choice cover for the injured Tyler Plante - looked confident throughout and was awarded the man of the match afterwards, after turning away 21 shots.
The only minor blip came with just under two minutes remaining when Carl Hudson halved the deficit, ensuring the home supporters had to endure a nervous few seconds.
But, as had been the case all night, the Steelers stood firm, got their bodies in the way of both man and puck to seal a third home win of the season against their Welsh visitors.
The two meet again on Saturday night in South Wales, with Cardiff hoping to protect their own unbeaten record on home ice against Thompson’s team.