WHEN the end of the current Elite League regular season arrives, this weekend might just prove to be the most important in Sheffield Steelers’ season.
Twice they were required to overcome the league’s form team. Twice they delivered.
Friday night saw the Steelers come out of the blocks flying, racing into a 4-0 first period lead from which their hosts at the SSE Arena never looked likely to recover from.
The 6-2 victory was fully deserved, as was the 3-1 triumph the following night, despite being given more of a game by a wounded Giants team, who had gone into the weekend one point and one place ahead of their rivals.
After being humbled the previous evening, the Giants not surprisingly came out flying to take an early lead on Saturday , Brandon Benedict scoring with just 2.29 on the clock.
Just over three minutes later, the Steelers had levelled when Jeff Legue forced the puck home from close range.
And while most people expected a kickback from Belfast after the previous night’s disappointment, the game was decided in just one crucial minute in the second period.
On the powerplay, Tyler Mosienko fired home past Stephen Murphy at 29.17, following good build-up work by Russ Moyer and Jace Coyle.
Then, just 39 seconds later, Conny Stromberg - the Swedish forward who made his debut for the Steelers the previous night - set up Roy on a breakaway, the 29-year-old Canadian neatly lifting the puck over the right shoulder of Murphy for his 22nd goal of the season.
On Saturday, Mosienko and Roy combined by scoring two apiece in a huge win, the Steelers racing into a 4-0 first period lead from which the hosts never recovered.
At 4.47, Roy – returning from injury – had the Steelers 1-0 ahead thanks to good work from Legue and Coyle.
Then, with Belfast’s Mike Wilson in the box for holding the stick, the Steelers struck on their first powerplay of the night when Mosienko doubled his team’s lead at 10.05.
Just 58 seconds later, Mosienko added his second of the night.
Within two minutes it was fast turning into a nightmare for the Giants as Fredrik Vestberg struck his 11th of the season, forcing the hosts to take a 30-second timeout.
That is how it stayed until Roy grabbed his second of the night at 27.02, although Craig Peacock pulled a goal back for the Giants before the middle session had ended.
With just under 10 minutes remaining, Steelers forward Guilliume Desbiens took a two-plus-10 for instigating a fight against Mitch Ganzak, allowing Belfast to salvage further pride when Chris Higgins struck on the resulting powerplay at 52.21.
But that was as good as it got for the hosts, with Ben O’Connor finishing off the scoring for the visitors at 57.19 on the powerplay.