SHEFFIELD STEELERS had known for some time that their Elite League crown was heading to South Wales - they would just rather not have been forced to hand it over to Cardiff Devils in their own building.
In the end, there was no grand presentation ceremony - that will come at Ice Arena Wales on Sunday night whether player-coach Andrew Lord’s team beat visitors Fife Flyers on home ice or not.
But there were still raucous celebrations at Sheffield Arena on Saturday night from the few hundred Devils fans who had made the trip north in the hope of seeing their club seal a first-ever regular season league title in the EIHL era.
A 6-2 victory over a tired and jaded-looking Steelers outfit was fully deserved, the hosts vacating the ice quickly to allow the Devils players to enjoy the moment with their fans.
The hope had been for Paul Thompson’s side to at least delay the Devils’ celebrations by at least 24 hours, but a 5-2 victory in Belfast on Friday for the Steelers meant a win in Sheffield would be enough for the South Wales club. So it proved.
Not surprisingly, there was no bitterness from Steelers’ head coach Thompson afterwards, just an intense disappointment that it wasn’t his players out on the ice repeating last year’s celebrations when winning a second straight league title.
It did not go according to plan for the hosts more or less from the very first puck drop, Mark Richardson putting the champions-elect ahead just 26 seconds in.
The Steelers found themselves in further trouble when a hooking call saw Rod Sarich join Jace Coyle in the penalty box, his team-mate having gone in there for an interference call.
Shortly after, the two-man advantage paid off for the Devils when Patrick Asselin was free at the back post to fire home past a stranded Ervins Mustukovs on a feed from Joey Martin.
Only just after five minutes of the second had elapsed when the Steelers halved the deficit, The Devils’ Guillaume Doucet was in the box on a slashing call when John Armstrong fed Ben O’Connor, who fired past Ben Bowns through a clutch of bodies.
But the hope that the Steelers could indeed delay the visitors’ title celebrations in their building disappeared once again following another penalty call, this time on Colton Fretter for roughing.
It wasn’t long before the Steelers paid the price when Joey Martin found a way past Mustukovs at 34.08.
Any hope of a comeback disappeared when Sean Bentivoglio’s rasping shot flew past Mustukovs after the puck was too easily given up by the Steelers and although Geoff Walker made it 4-2 at 52.03, there was to be no way back for the hosts.
Fittingly, Lord registered a goal himself when tipping in Andrew Hotham’s shot on the powerplay, salt being rubbed into the Steelers’ wounds when Patrick Bordelau scored an empty netter with just under two minutes remaining.
It was a deserved win for the Devils and, overall, a deserved title triumph - just the second piece of what they hope will be a grand slam in what is already a more than memorable campaign.