SHEFFIELD STEELERS moved up to second in the Elite League standings after finally getting the better of title rivals Belfast Giants at the fifth attempt.
Four previous meetings this season – three in Sheffield – had all gone the way of the Giants, but goals from Matt Marquardt, Mark Matheson and Andreas Jamtin ended the Steelers’ losing streak against Adam Keefe’s team in a 3-2 win – their sixth straight league victory.
Head coach Paul Thompson was pleased that his players heeded his pre-match request about playing a patient game against their hosts, something they had struggled to do previously.
“It was hard fought,” said Thompson. “I like the way we played, I liked our togetherness and our discipline.
“We knew we would have to come here and be patient. We had to play smart and be defensively sound and we were.”
Thompson was particularly impressed with Jamtin, citing him as the team’s catalyst.
“He was another level, he raised the bar,” he added. “His battle level was superb, the play for the short-handed goal was excellent and then he gets that all important third.”
New signing Eric Neiley also drew praise from the visitors’ coach, who added: “He was very good tonight I thought. He was good on the puck and smart off it. He will be a great addition.”
As if to remind fans about their earlier ‘coming together’ in Sheffield back in October, Steelers’ Colton Fretter and Giants’ Spiro Goulakos briefly resumed hostilities early in a first period that saw the sides separated by Marquardt’s strike at 17.05 which saw him fire home a rebound after Jackson Whistle had stopped his initial effort.
It wasn’t until just after the halfway point that the hosts got on the scoreboard, Steve Saviano tapping home at 31.29 after Goulakos’s initial effort had hit the post.
We knew we would have to come here and be patient. We had to play smart and be defensively sound and we were.Sheffield Steelers’ head coach, Paul Thompson.
Parity lasted just over 30 seconds, however, the lively Jamtin creating a chance for himself with Steelers short-handed that, despite being saved by Whistle, landed on the stick of defenceman Matheson, who fired home the rebound.
And it didn’t stop there for the Steelers, who – despite seeing defenceman Zack Fitzgerald ejected from the game – doubled their advantage before the end of the second period when Jamtin got his just rewards when firing past Whistle at 39.37.
Just over five minutes into the third period, the Giants pulled themselves back to within one when David Rutherford fired home from a tight angle.
But that was as close as the hosts got, ensuring they will be desperate to even the score when the two teams meet up again on Saturday night.