AS THEY have repeatedly promised, Sheffield Steelers are refusing to give up their Elite League title quietly.
And they will certainly be in no mood to see it seized from their grasp on home ice on Saturday night when champions-elect Cardiff Devils visit Sheffield Arena.
But, after the Steelers’ 5-2 win at second-placed Belfast Giants on Friday, that is effectively what they have given Andrew Lord’s side the chance to do.
The Devils would love nothing more than to rub the Steelers’ noses in it in their own building by clinching their first regular season crown in the EIHL era, adding to the Challenge Cup Finalthey won at the expense of Paul Thompson’s side in South Wales two weeks ago, keeping their hopes of a treble alive.
The Steelers’ however, are desperate to prevent that and pick up the only piece of silverware still available to them at the National Ice Centre on April 9.
Friday night’s victory at Belfast’s SSE Arena certainly enhanced their chances of leapfrogging their hosts to finish runners-up to Cardiff, thereby ensuring a better seed for the post-season and – in theory – an easier route to the Final Four weekend.
Mathieu Roy was the Steelers’ hero, plundering two goals on a night when a win for the visitors rarely seemed in doubt, despite being outshot 52-28.
After a goalless first period in which the Steelers were outshot 16-8, Roy opened the scoring just under five minutes into the second with a shorthanded breakaway goal, Markus Nilsson doubling the Steelers’ advantage at 30.16 to stun a Giants side who had begun the evening hopeful of taking their title challenge into their final weekend double-header at Cardiff.
Hope eventually arrived for the home side early in the third through defenceman Jerome Leduc’s strike. But the Steelers’ two-goal cushion was soon restored through Geoff Walker at 45.51, with Roy making it 4-1 just 43 seconds later.
James Desmarais capped off a wild run of play 21 seconds later by grabbing a reply for Belfast , but Guillaume Desbiens fired in a 59th-minute empty-netter to seal a stunning victory for the Steelers, while quite possibly killing off Belfast’s title dream.
The Steelers are desperate to pick up the only piece of silverware still available to them at the National Ice Centre on April 9The remaining target for Paul Thompson’s side.
Not surprisingly, Steelers head coach Thompson was left a happy man on St Patrick’s Day.
“It was a stunning road performance,” he said. “We had a long travel day, the boys have been on the road since 7.30 on Fridaymorning. They were to a man totally committed and focused on bringing the points back to Sheffield.
“Our energy came from our penalty kill, the kill was superb from Moose out. I’m delighted but we know the weekend isn’t over.
“Cardiff are sat at home resting again whilst we have another tough travel day. We need to get rest, fed and energised for one of the biggest battles we will face tomorrow, a team trying to win a league title on our ice.”