HEAD COACH Paul Thompson recently insisted that whatever happened to Sheffield Steelers before the end of the regular season would not be about results – purely performances.
But last night’s 4-3 win at the home of champions Cardiff Devils – who clinched their second successive Elite League title with a 3-2 win at Belfast Giants on Friday – will have tasted very, very sweet for Thompson and his players.
The result will not have caused the Devils to hold back in their post-game title celebrations in front of their own fans in any way, but the win will be another important marker for Thompson and his side as they build momentum for what they hope will be a successful defence of their play-off title.
They found themselves 2-0 ahead at the end of the first period at Ice Arena Wales, Andreas Valdix following up his ninth-minute opener with a second strike four minutes later.
It got even better for the visitors just under four minutes into the second period when Jonas Westerling made it 3-0.
But the hosts put aside any doubts as to whether their celebrations had started before rather than after the game when they came roaring back in typically relentless fashion.
Matt Pope made it 3-1 by firing past starting netminder Brad Day a few seconds before the halfway mark before the visitors’ bench got understandably twitchy when it became a one-goal game through Lars Ulmer at 49.41.
But a two-goal cushion was quickly restored just under a minute later when Robert Dowd smashed home a rebound off Ben Bowns, who could only parry Valdix’s initial shot.
The Devils came back again with less than a minute added on the clock to make it 4-3 and although Justin Faryna’s effort ensured a nervous last few minutes for the Steelers, they held out.
It was probably no more than they deserved after leaving the ice empty-handed the previous night despite a dominant performance against Nottingham Panthers, which saw them outshoot the visitors 60-30, but lose 3-2.
Guillaume Desbiens – scorer of last season’s play-off quarter-final overtime winner against the Panthers – returned to be greeted by a packed Sheffield Arena before the game, but there was to be no repeat as Patrick Galbraith produced a 58-save match-winning performance.
The Panthers had got themselves 3-0 ahead by the end of the second period through Zack Phillips, Mike Vaskivuo and Evan Mosey and although Dowd struck twice, a third goal simply would not come.