ONCE was obviously more than Sheffield Steelers could stomach.
Just under a year ago, the Steelers were unable to prevent Cardiff Devils from clinching the Elite League regular season title in their Sheffield Arena building.
There was a chance for Andrew Lord’s team to repeat that trick last night at the same venue but, while it is only be delaying the inevitable, the Steelers were able to prevent lightning striking twice.
The Steelers face two trips to Cardiff in the next week, the first being on Wednesday, but, with second-placed Manchester Storm winning at Braehead Clan in overtime last night, it will be next weekend before the defending champions can confirm a second successive title.
Colton Fretter, who enjoyed a five-point weekend including three goals, broke the deadlock last night with what proved the only goal of the first period at 7.56.
But a frenetic four-minute spell in the second period followed, the hosts doubling their lead through Miika Franssila at 25.39 before the Devils halved the deficit through Tyson Strachan a minute later.
Fretter continued his good work by restoring the two-goal advantage on the powerplay at 28.24, with the Steelers taking a firm grip on the game just 27 seconds later when Liam Kirk made it 4-1.
There was then a short spell of relative calm before the Devils found the net for a second time at 33.51 through Joey Martin.
The Devils came out hard in the third - out-shooting the hosts by 14-6 - but they could not find a way through, Steelers’ captain Jonathan Phillips grabbing an empty-net strike with 16 seconds remaining.
On Saturday, the Steelers enjoyed an equally testing contest at Nottingham Panthers before coming away with a 3-2 win.
Fretter broke the deadlock in the 17th minute, only for the Panthers’ Mike Vaskivuo to level just over a minute later.
Jonathan Phillips made it a one-goal game again with a short-handed strike at 24.46 but again the Panthers stormed back quickly, this time through Zack Phillips’s 27th-minute effort.
Taking the lead for a third time on the night finally proved to be enough for the Steelers, Mathieu Roy’s 42nd-minute strike sealing both points.