Fortunate Steelers do enough to stay close to Giants

SHEFFIELD STEELERS were able to maintain the pressure on Elite League leaders Belfast Giants with a sixth straight victory.

But player-coach Ben Simon was quick to admit that his players were fortunate to come away with both points following last night's 5-2 victory at Coventry Blaze – their second win in four nights over Paul Thompson's team.

The result leaves the Steelers level on points with Cardiff Devils, with Belfast three points ahead of them both thanks to a 2-0 home win over Hull Stingrays.

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Cardiff thrashed Newcastle Vipers 8-1 in South wales to pick up their 16th straight win, leaving Steelers ahead only on goal difference. The two sides meet in Sheffield on January 12.

After taking maximum points from their three previous festive fixtures, Steelers continued where they left off in Thursday night's

6-4 home win over the Blaze when Jeff Legue put them ahead with a powerplay strike in only the second minute.

That was how it stayed until five minutes into the second period when the home side grabbed two goals in as many minutes, the first from Luke Fulghum at 25.29 before Ross Venus pounced to put Coventry ahead.

Robert Dowd quickly levelled before Neil Clark slammed home his 21st goal of the campaign on the powerplay at 38.42.

Simon gave Steelers a two-goal cushion at 54.59 before Derek Campbell scored an empty-netter against his former club as Coventry pulled netminder Tom Murdy.

"I don't think the score was a fair reflection of the game," admitted Simon.

"I believe we were fortunate to get the win. Moose (netminder Ervins Mustukovs) was great for us again but we didn't play as well as I would have liked.

"But we still managed to get both points which is the sign of a good team."

Hull coach Sylvain Cloutier had taken his team into Belfast's Odyssey Arena having taken five points from a possible six earlier in the week.

But they were shutout by a Giants team who were looking to repair some of the damage caused by three home losses over the Christmas period.

Great Britain international Mark Garside scored the only goal of the first period to give Belfast the lead at 13.16 and the home side's advantage was doubled at the halfway point when Simon Lambert grabbed his fourth goal of the season.

Stingrays' woes continued when they lost former NHL defenceman Drew Bannister on a 2+10 checking to the head penalty.

"It was frustrating," said Cloutier. "They out-shot us 46-21 but a lot of those came on the powerplay as we had to kill a few penalties.

"We managed to keep them to the outside a lot but Bouch (netminder Christian Boucher) made some great saves. He was unlucky with the first goal but kept us in it too. We had a goal disallowed – I don't know why – and we missed a couple of open nets but I felt we played a good game considering the day we have had travelling."

Stingrays' misery was compounded when they discovered sixth-placed Braehead Clan were able to increase the gap on them to six points following an 8-0 victory at Edinburgh Capitals.

Hull do have five games in hand on Bruce Richardson's side though.