AT the end of each season, when teams look back at their campaign, there are always plenty of moments which stand out as being pivotal to the final outcome – good and bad.
Should Sheffield Steelers fail to retain their Elite League title, the two defeats suffered this weekend at the hands of an inconsistent Coventry Blaze will certainly fall into the latter category.
One point they may have taken in a 3-2 defeat after a shoot-out on home ice on Saturday night but – 24 hours later in Coventry – the Steelers came off second-best for the fourth successive time to Chuck Weber’s team, losing 5-1.
To add to their problems, leaders Cardiff Devils edged out bottom side Edinburgh Capitals 2-1 at home, completing a four-point weekend for them following the previous night’s 3-0 win on the road at Nottingham Panthers.
The only silver lining for the Steelers was when they heard second-placed Braehead Clan had gone down 4-2 at Fife Flyers.
The Steelers actually took the lead at the SkyDome last night, captain Jonathan Phillips firing them ahead with his sixth of the season at 18.37. It was all downhill after that though.
Former Steelers defenceman Jim Jorgensen levelled just 21 seconds later, but it was in the second period that the real damage was done.
A little over three minutes after the break, Blaze went ahead through Jordan Pietrus, who added his second of the night, this time on the powerplay, at 31.06.
Just 61 seconds later, Jorgensen heaped further misery on his former club when he made it 4-1. Steelers ran into penalty trouble in the third as their frustrations grew, Coventry adding further insult with Mike Quesnele’s powerplay strike at 58.26.
On Saturday, goals from Steelers’ Mathieu Roy and Ben O’Connor were matched by two efforts from Blaze’s Brett Robinson leaving them all-square after two periods. A goalless third period was repeated in overtime, with Blaze taking the extra point on offer in the shoot-out when Drew Fisher and Pietrus scored past Brad Day in the Steelers goal, while Tyler Mosienko and Ryan Hayes were denied by the again impressive Brian Stewart.
Should Steelers’ jaded players be hoping for any kind of rest in a schedule which has seen them play 13 games in January, they are out of luck.
Tuesday morning sees them hop on a plane for Belfast to play the re-arranged game that was controversially postponed just days before because of a One Direction concert being rescheduled at the SSE Arena.
With the Giants suffering defeat on both nights at the weekend, their own title hopes have been as good as ended. There’s no doubt they would like to take the Steelers down with them.
With Belfast due in Sheffield this Saturday and Thompson’s team set to return to Coventry 24 hours later, the next seven days will go a long way to deciding Steelers’ title hopes.