IT is only fair to assume that Sheffield Steelers’ players were stinging from Saturday night’s 5-2 defeat at the hands of struggling Milton Keynes Lightning.
At least, that is the assumption you would make after they came out of the blocks flying just under 24 hours later to take out their frustrations on title rivals Belfast Giants – four goals in the first 10 minutes putting Paul Thompson’s team on the way to a memorable 8-0 victory.
The resounding win undersstandably delighted the home fans at Sheffield Arena, but, overall, the weekend was not so positive for either side with leaders Cardiff Devils enjoying a four-point haul in their double-header against Coventry Blaze.
It leaves Andrew Lord’s side seven points clear of second-placed Belfast, with the Steelers down in fourth place, six points further back.
With 19 games remaining in the regular season, most people are probably already of the opinion that it is Cardiff’s title to throw away.
But the Steelers will cling to the belief that they can rein in Cardiff, having a game in hand and with four matches between the two rivals still to come.
Before then, the two meet this Wednesday at Ice Sheffield innthe first leg of their Challenge Cup semi-final. The Steelers will go into that encounter with an understandable spring in their step, effectively sealing both points on Sunday night inside the first 10 minutes.
Liam Kirk got the bandwagon rolling at 4.08 before Ben O’Connor doubled the lead just 26 seconds later.
A 2-0 lead became 3-0 just over a minute later when Levi Nelson pounced with Andreas Jamtin – playing his first game after a three-match suspension – rubbing salt into the Giants’ wounds when he scored a shorthanded effort at 9.29.
O’Connor added his second with another shorthanded marker at 27.07, with Matt Marquardt (2) and captain Jonathan Phillips rounding off the rout in the third period.
Steelers suffered at the hands of Milton Keynes’s powerplay on Saturday, three of the hosts’ goals coming on the man advantage, with Kirk and Nelson finding the net in the second period.
It was a winning start for the Lightning’s new goaltender Jindrich Paclm, who guided the hosts to their first win in five games.
Pacl had only been brought in on Friday after first-choice Miika Wiikman was ruled out due to a concussion sustained against former club Nottingham Panthers the previous weekend.
Former Hull Stingrays’ forward Guillaume Doucet’s 14th minute goal gave the home side a slender lead heading into the first break, with captain Kevin King doubling the lead early in the second period with a powerplay goal.
But two goals in five minutes - the first from teenager Kirk at 27.25 with Nelson then levelling - dragged the Steelers level. But Matt Marquardt took a roughing call which allowed the hosts to restore their advantage on the powerplay through Lewis Hook.
As the Steelers chased the game, Mathieu Roy was sent to the box on a delay of game call, prompting a third powerplay goal of the night for the hosts and a second for King in the 53rd minute.
The points were ensured when Francis Verreault-Paul fired the puck into an empty net nine seconds from the end.