Elite League: Steelers serve notice of intent for play-offs

SHEFFIELD STEELERS recorded a six-point weekend to serve notice that they could be the surprise package once the end-of-season Elite League play-offs get underway.

With the defence of their Elite League title long gone in what has been a desperately disappointing season, Dave Matsos's side will be determined to salvage some pride by lifting the play-off crown for a third successive year.

The best finish they can realistically hope for in the regular season will be fifth place, a position which will pit them against Cardiff Devils, the team most currently likely to finish fourth.

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But Steelers still have to overhaul Edinburgh Capitals in order to finish fifth, although three straight wins over the weekend – Sunday night's emphatic 6-2 victory at home to Hull Stingrays following a double double triumph over Newcastle Vipers – will have given them a timely confidence boost with just seven games of the regular season remaining.

Mike Sgroi gave Steelers an early lead on the powerplay on Sunday night against bottom club Hull before the prolific Konstantin Kalmikov levelled for the visitors, who were hoping to make it three straight wins over their county rivals.

The Ukrainian then doubled his tally on a delayed penalty four minutes into the second period before Steelers hit back with venom scoring three unanswered goals through Jason Hewitt, Scott Basiuk and Doug Sheppard to take a 4-2 lead into the third.

As Stingrays pushed for a way back into the game, Jeff Legue and Matt Hubbauer found the net to ensure a comfortable evening for the defending Elite League champions, gaining some revenge for a 5-2 loss to Hull in Sheffield in January.

After seeing off Newcastle 6-3 at the Arena on Friday night, Steelers continued the good work at Whitley Bay on Saturday when Hubbauer (2), Legue and defenceman Jonathan Zion were on target to secure a deserved

4-2 victory.

For Hull Stingrays, Sunday's defeat was a big comedown after their heroics of Saturday night when they finally found a way to beat player-coach Sylvain cloutier's former club Coventry Blaze at the eighth time of asking.

Kalmikov struck in the 29th minute to cancel out Luke Fulghum's 14th-minute opener, before Lee Mitchell clinched the game-winning goal on a breakaway at 43.32.

"It certainly wasn't a 6-2 game at Sheffield," said Cloutier.

"But we have picked up two points this weekend and we want to be picking up points every weekend now tom build up some momentum going into the play-offs."