Sheffield Steelers turn up the heat on title rivals Cardiff Devils

PAUL THOMPSON insists it would be 'catastrophic' for leaders Cardiff Devils if they failed to lift the Elite League title this season.

Sheffield Steelers' head coach, Paul Thompson. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Thompson’s Sheffield Steelers side moved back to second in the overall standings for the first time since the middle of December with a convincing 5-2 win over bottom club Edinburgh Capitals on Wednesday night.

And while the result may have put paid to Edinburgh’s play-off hopes for another season, the campaign remains very much alive for the Steelers as they attempt to chase down a third straight title.

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Cardiff remain in the boxseat, but their lead has been cut to six points with nine games remaining.

Sheffield Steelers' head coach, Paul Thompson. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Many would regard that gap as too big to overcome in such a short space of time, but when you factor in that the top two still have to play each other twice in the space of eight days at Sheffield Arena next month, there is every reason to believe this race may gown to the wire once again.

And while eyes may be fixed firmly on the leading pair, third-placed Belfast Giants cannot be discounted either, just a point behind the Steelers and with two meetings against Cardiff still to come as well as a home game against the Steelers on March 17.

And in a not-so-subtle attempt to crank up the pressure on the leaders, Thompson insisted that the title is Cardiff’s to lose.

“It’s great for us to get back to that second spot, but Cardiff are very much still in the driving seat,” said Steelers’ head coach Thompson.

Zack Fitzgerald, left, in action against Edinburgh Capitals on Wednesday night. Picture: Dean Woolley.

“If they were to lose the league now it would be catastrophic, absolutely catastrophic and we’ve just got to keep putting the pressure on.

“We’ve got to play them twice at ours and they’ve also got to play Belfast twice, so who knows what can happen in these next few weeks.”

Steelers, who saw off Edinburgh through two goals apiece from Markus Nilsson and Robert Dowd, along with a John Armstrong strike, are back in action on Saturday when they host Nottingham Panthers.

Corey Neilson’s side did the Steelers a huge favour by beating Cardiff 7-4 at the NIC on Tuesday night, but they will no doubt take an greater delight in derailing their fiercest rivals title aspirations.

Sheffield Steelers' head coach, Paul Thompson. Picture: Dean Woolley.
Zack Fitzgerald, left, in action against Edinburgh Capitals on Wednesday night. Picture: Dean Woolley.