HULL STINGRAYS enter a pivotal week in their bid to make the Elite League play-offs in buoyant mood after a stunning triumph over Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Steelers.
With four games remaining, the East Yorkshire club are embroiled in a four-way battle with Coventry Blaze, Cardiff Devils and Fife Flyers to pin down one of the three remaining spots for the post-season.
Who will miss out is anybody’s guess, with all four teams picking up at least one win at the weekend and with just three points separating sixth-placed Coventry and ninth-placed Fife.
Stingrays can follow up Saturday’s 5-1 win over the Steelers and take a further step towards the post-season when they face Fife at Hull Arena on Wednesday with player-coach Sylvain Cloutier aware points are more vital than ever at this late stage of the regular season.
“The two points was all that mattered on Saturday,” said Cloutier. “We know we need to get points from all of our remaining games with the league so tight and teams around us picking up wins too.
“It was a massive team performance against Sheffield. We played hard and got to the dirty areas, which we’d got away from.”
Steelers arrived in Hull on the back of a three-game winning streak under new coach Gerad Adams, but found themselves out of the game after two periods.
Carl Lauzon and Jason Silverthorn made it 2-0 before the end of the first period, before two from Cloutier and a powerplay marker from Jereme Tendler put the game out of sight.
Goaltender Ben Bowns was denied a shutout when Robert Dowd replied for the visitors with just 45 seconds left.
It looked like being a weekend to forget for the Steelers when they found themselves 4-1 down at the halfway stage in last night’s home encounter with champions Belfast Giants.
But goals from Drew Fata and Jeff Legue (2) saw them take the game into overtime and then a shoot-out when Chris Blight was the only successful shooter to give the Steelers a 5-4 triumph.
“It’s good to see the players see how they actually are when they compete at a very high ledvel, when thjey have the will, the want to go and get the puck,” said Steelers head coach Adams afterwards.
“I think we’re an incredibly good hockey team and we work hard all of the time. I just don’t think we work smart all of the time.
“I was a little bit angry after the second period to be honest and there were some things said in the dressing room, but those things stay there.
“This was a benchmark game for us and we passed it. The performance may not have been there from the start, but the finish was there and that’s the main thing.”
Dundee Stars clinched the Gardiner Conference title and the second seeding in the play-offs following their 3-1 win over Braehead Clan last night.