IT PROVED a weekend of two halves for Sheffield Steelers, the good work done in a 4-0 demolition of Elite League champions Cardiff Devils being tempered by a 4-3 reverse to bogey side Belfast Giants.
Afterwards, Steelers’ head coach Paul Thompson was left to rue the one that got away in terms of the Belfast defeat, the second of two home matches in as many nights.
A double from Matt Marquardt plus strikes from Colton Fretter and Andreas Jamtin completed a convincing win over Cardiff on Saturday - but it was the visit of Belfast 24 hours later that contained most talking points, with Steelers’ Zack Fitzgerald and Fretter both ejected from a game which was decided by a late powerplay strike from Sebastien Sylvestre.
Prior to that, the Steelers had leapt into a deserved 2-0 lead through Mathieu Roy’s 13th-minute tip-in from a Mark Matheson blast on the powerplay ahead of John Armstrong’s back-post conversion - also with the man advantage - at 17.07.
But 44 seconds later, Fitzgerald was on his way to an early shower after taking exception to a check from behind by Brendan Connolly and being handed a game misconduct for his subsequent high sticks.
The deficit was halved just over three minutes into the second period through Jonathan Ferland‘s rocket, but it wasn’t until the first minute of the third that Belfast were level, Colin Shields firing home.
It got worse for the home side just under six minutes later when Spiro Goulakos fired past Ervins Mustukovs into the top left-hand corner.
At 47.49, the game threw up another flashpoint, the red mist descending over Fretter who was thrown from the game for checking from behind after he took exception at what he felt was missed call for the same offence on him moments earlier. Goulakos accompanied him after being called for kicking.
The momentum then seemed to swing back with the Steelers when they levelled through Mark Matheson at 50.09.
But, with Andreas Valdix in the penalty box on a hooking call, the Steelers couldn’t clear the puck from their zone, Sylvestre being found by a neat Darcy Murphy feed to slot home the game winner at 56.11, enabling Belfast to maintain their 100 per cent record over the Steelers.
Cardiff Devils 6 Nottingham Panthers 2
Dundee Stars 1 Coventry Blaze 2 (OT)
Edinburgh Capitals 2 Milton Keynes Lightning 5
Fife Flyers 5 Braehead Clan 2
Guildford Flames 6 Manchester Storm 4
Sheffield Steelers 3 Belfast Giants 4