IN the end it was honours even, but Sheffield Steelers will have exited their weekend double-header against Elite League leaders Belfast Giants with a slightly bigger spring in their step.
Adam Keefe’s side edged the first of two encounters at Sheffield Arena with a 4-2 win on Saturday night, extending their winning streak in all competitions to a remarkable 11 games and their lead at the top of the standings to three points.
But, thanks to the Steelers’ ability to strike back instantly with a 4-2 win of their own last night and a 7-2 win for second-placed Nottingham Panthers at home to Glasgow Clan, Belfast’s lead this morning is now just the one point.
The Steelers themselves remain in sixth spot, 12 points adrift of the Giants.
But we are not even at the halfway stage of the 2018-19 campaign yet and, given the rate of progress seen under head coach Tom Barrasso, nothing is out of the question for the Steelers.
Hurting from losing a game they were still in until Darcy Murphy’s last minute empty netter 24 hours earlier, the Steelers came out with intent and purpose from the off in last night’s rematch.
Robert Dowd led the way, following up his strike on Saturday with two goals in just over two minutes to put the hosts in control early on. The first came from a well-timed feed off Josh Pitt on the right and, following good work on the boards from Jonas Westerling, a similar set-up saw Dowd double his tally with just 6.35 on the clock.
Two further prime chances came when the Steelers were on the penalty kill, Ryan Martinelli denied from point-blank range after a breakaway from Westerling before a one-on-one between Jordan Eberle and Giants' goalie Tyler Beskorowany saw the latter come out on top.
By the halfway stage, the Steelers had doubled their advantage and were almost home dry, Josh McFadden’s strike following good work by Anthony DeLuca deflecting in at 23.07 before a searing power play effort from Ben O’Connor followed at 28.54.
Belfast finally got on the board through Francis Beauvillier at 34.49 but, despite Blair Riley’s last-minute power play strike, there was nothing they could to prevent the end of their impressive winning run.
Cardiff Devils 2 Dundee Stars 3 (PS)
Coventry Blaze 5 Guildford Flames 6 (OT)
Manchester Storm 3 Fife Flyers 4 (OT)
Nottingham Panthers 7 Glasgow Clan 2
Sheffield Steelers 4 Belfast Giants 2
Dundee Stars 4 Coventry Blaze 2,
Fife Flyers 3 Cardiff Devils 8
Guildford Flames 3 Nottingham Panthers 8
Milton Keynes Lightning 5 Manchester Storm 2
Sheffield Steelers 2 Belfast Giants 4