SHEFFIELD Steelers kept up the pressure on Elite League leaders Belfast Giants by heading home from a testing weekend in Scotland with a maximum return.
The four points gained by Ryan Finnerty’s team north of the border – courtesy of road wins at Braehead Clan and Edinburgh Capitals – saw them go one point behind the defending champions in the overall league table, while it was also enough to put them at the head of the Erhardt Conference table.
Going into the weekend, many people expected the Steelers’ second game of the weekend in Edinburgh to be the easier option – but that was far from the case after they romped into a 3-0 first period lead in Braehead.
Tom Sestito got the first of three goals on the night and was joined on the scoresheet by the end of the first buzzer by Shawn Limpright and Rod Sarich.
Jade Galbraith pulled one back for the home side, but Sestito’s second and further goals from Colin Shields and Jeff Legue saw the Steelers 6-1 ahead just after 45 minutes. The Clan’s NHL forward, Drew Miller, salvaged some pride for the Scottish club before Sestito completed his hat-trick in the 54th minute for a 7-2 win.
While Edinburgh are often considered the league’s whipping boys, this season they have proved to be a tough obstacle to overcome in their own Murrayfield rink and it proved no different last night.
Twice the Steelers had to come from behind, eventually winning 3-2 thanks to goals from Legue, Limpright and Steve Goertzen.
It was also a good weekend for Hull Stingrays who, despite still not being able to find a way to win a shoot-out, returned to the top of the Gardiner Conference thanks to a three-point return.
For the fifth time this season Hull went to a shoot-out, this time in Kirkcaldy after being tied 2-2 at the end of overtime with hosts Fife Flyers.
Goals from in-form forwards Dominic Osman and Jereme Tendler ensured the visitors were able to take it to penalty shots, but Jason Pitton’s strike was enough to secure the extra point for the Scottish club.
That result temporarily saw Sylvain Cloutier’s team drop into the bottom two of the overall league table but, in a 10-goal thriller on home ice against Braehead last night, they ended the weekend on a high.
The 6-4 triumph saw them leapfrog Dundee Stars at the top of the conference table, as well as lift them above Fife in the league standings.
Stingrays were ahead after just 11 seconds through Tom Squires, although they found themselves behind after 13 minutes following strikes from Matt Haywood and Brock McPherson before Cloutier tied the game on the powerplay with 52 seconds of the first period remaining.
Osman put Stingrays back in front at 24:01 before Galbraith’s leveller. Kurtis Dulle made it 4-3 to Hull at 35:46, with Jason Silverthorn then doubling the lead.
Adam Walker replied for the Clan, but Tendler’s 46th-minute powerplay strike sealed the win.
“It was a big win and to get three out of four points this weekend was massive and we are now back in first place in the conference,” said delighted Cloutier.