THERE will not be too many times this season when Sheffield Steelers will be associated with the phrase “pointless weekend”.
Last season it happened just twice and just once during the 2015-16 campaign when they last won the Elite League title.
The weekend just gone saw the Steelers’ impressive start to the 2017-18 campaign brought to a shuddering halt, however, following back-to-back defeats at the hands of Belfast Giants.
A 3-1 loss in Belfast on Saturday, which saw head coach Paul Thompson accuse his players of a lack of fight, was followed by a 2-0 setback the following day against the same opponents at Sheffield Arena.
Back-to-back defeats against Belfast in late January this year dealt a huge blow to the Steelers’ bid for a third straight regular season title, the South Yorkshire club eventually surrendering their crown to the Cardiff Devils, with the Giants runners-up.
But, coming so early in the current campaign, not too much should be read into the weekend just passed, particularly with another 51 games remaining.
While Thompson may been left frustrated by events on Saturday, he seemed to get the response he was looking for 24 hours later with a solitary Colin Shields goal in the 28th minute the only thing to separate the two sides until Darcy Murphy’s empty-net strike with four seconds remaining.
On Saturday, Thompson was angered by another poor start by his players, who despite being boosted by the return from injury of forward Matt Marquardt and defenceman Zack Fitzgerald, found themselves 3-0 down inside 10 minutes.
Dustin Dohner took just 32 seconds to break the deadlock before Cole Jarrett doubled the home side’s advantage at 8.22.
Under a minute later Sebastien Sylvestre made it 3-0.
The Steelers rallied briefly when they made it a two-goal game through Levi Nelson at 10.56, but that was as close as they got with the impressive Giants unlucky not to increase their lead further on a night when they outshot the visitors 47-30.