SOME people may look at Sheffield Steelers’ midweek triumph in Scotland and say it was ‘only’ the Dundee Stars, it was ‘only’ the Challenge Cup.
But a 3-0 win in Tayside on a bleak and cold Thursday night was just what the Sheffield Steelers needed after a worrying slump of four straight league defeats over Christmas and New Year had left them looking up at their rivals instead of down on them from the top spot they had occupied going into the festive period.
The bigger test will await Gerad Adams’s team with a return to the league programme on home ice on Saturday night when arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers - who it has to be said have so far enjoyed the better of the exchanges between the two this season - make a fourth visit of the season.
Those preparations for Saturday’s clash (7pm) were hampered somewhat when the Steelers were forced to stay for a second night in Scotland due to the gale force winds sweeping the north of Britain, making travelling difficult.
There should also be two additional games against Corey Neilson’s down the line, unless the Steelers manage to self-implode when they welcome Jeff Hutchins’s struggling Stars to the Motorpoint Arena next Wednesday for the second leg of the cup quarter-final.
Nottingham lost out to Fife Flyers on home ice on Wednesday night in the second leg of their last eight encounter, but still eased through 11-8 on aggregate to the semi-finals of a competition they have won six out of the last seven seasons.
Adams’s team rarely looked in trouble in Dundee on Thursday night, particularly after a two-goal burst in three first period minutes put them in control.
Jeff Legue, who returned to the club just before Christmas, struck his first goal since then for the visitors at 11.43, with defenceman Mark Thomas grabbing what was also his first of the season shortly after.
The second period was just over six minutes old when defenceman Gord Baldwin made it 3-0.
It’s been a frustratingly difficult season for the Stars after winning the Gardiner Conference last time out and it is difficult to see past anything but a Steelers aggregate win after the second leg.
Should that,as expected, be the case, then the Steelers will have to get past a much tougher opponent if they are to take part in the first Challenge Cup final to be staged in Sheffield on Sunday, Match 8.