‘FINE margins’. A term often used by sportsmen and women to describe how close they have or can come to winning or losing.
Some might think it an over-used phrase but, in truth, it is by coming down on the wrong side of them more often than not in their weekend double-header against Belfast Giants, that the Sheffield Steelers were only able to return home from Northern Ireland with a solitary point.
Both games saw the Steelers denied by the odd goal – a 5-4 overtime loss on Saturday being followed by a 4-3 reverse a little under 24 hours later. Both games saw the Steelers lose from winning positions.
It means Tom Barrasso’s inconsistent side go into next Saturday’s home game against Dundee Stars sitting in seventh place in the overall Elite League standings and looking over their shoulders at the ninth-placed Scottish club, who sit just two points behind and with a sniff of a lower-end play-off spot.
With just under 10 minutes remaining in Sunday evening's 'rematch' the Steelers were on an understandable high after John Armstrong’s precision short-handed strike had just put them 2-1 up against Adam Keefe’s second-placed side.
Less than six minutes later, however, they somehow found themselves 4-2 down after two strikes in 33 seconds from former NHL-er Patrick Dwyer - sealing his hat-trick - were followed by a fine, individual effort from Darcy Murphy.
Jonas Westerling made it a one-goal game again with 47 seconds left on the clock with the Steelers on the power play and having pulled netminder Matt Climie, but it was too late. Early in the third period, Evan McGarath's well-struck power play effort had cancelled our Dwyer's 1th-minute opener.
The previous evening, the Steelers took a 2-0 lead thanks to first-period strikes from Armstrong and Anthony DeLuca, the hosts responding through Blair Riley and Kyle Baun.
Jordan Owens quickly restored Steelers’ lead but, early in the third, the Giants were level again through David Rutherford.
A second from Riley then put Belfast in front for the first time, but a well-worked power play effort from Robert Dowd ensured the game required overtime in which that man Dwyer struck the winner, an indication, perhaps, of what was to come from him less than 24 hours later.