AARON FOX said his Sheffield Steelers team got exactly what they deserved when they went down 6-2 at Elite League title rivals Belfast Giants.
It was just 10 days ago that Adam Keeffe’s team limped out of the FlyDSA Arena on the back of a 5-0 defeat at the hand of their South Yorkshire rivals.
But the only comfort that Fox’s team can take from their defeat in Northern Ireland is that they get an immediate chance to hit back in the second of the two meetings between the two Elite League rivals tonight.
At 5-0 down after the first two periods, it was already game over for the visitors by the time they troubled the scoreboard.
"Obviously the score is a result of how we played tonight," said a frustrated Fox. "Belfast came out from the get-go and they out-worked us, they out-battled us, they were first on loose pucks, finished their hits and we got a little timid and we didn't answer the bell.
"It was good for us to build some momentum in the third period because we have another big game here on Saturday night. They were really good in the second period but, again, we weren't willing to defend and sometimes defending is hard work and if you're not willing to win battles and play defensive hockey the score can get ran up pretty quickly.
"I know Dubes would probably like to have those first and third goals back, those aren't great goals, but he's played a ton of games for us in a row and he has stood on his head for us but tonight we weren't there for him."
The Steelers remain top of the standings, but the defeat saw Belfast climb to second within three points of them and with three games in hand.
Liam Reddox got the ball rolling for the hosts with just 22 seconds on the clock when he fired through Tomas Duba from distance, the lead being doubled at 15.15 through Brian Ward’s short-handed marker which saw him tip-in Mark Garside's shot on goal.
Patrick Mullen then made it 3-0 at 24.45 with another shot from distance that eluded Duba and it quickly got even worse for the Steelers when the impressive Reddox grabbed his second of the night less than two minutes later whenn he was all alone to tap home a feed from behind by Ward.
Ben Lake made it 5-0 from close range on the power play at 31.14 and that is how it stayed until Brendan Connolly got on the board against his former club at 45.04 when he tipped in from Aaron Brocklehurst.
Nikolai Lemtyugov’s was quickest to react to a loose puck in front of net just over a minute later, giving the visiting fans a brief glimmer of hope of a comeback, but that was soon snuffed out when Ryan Lowney’s power play strike restored the four-goal advantage in the 49th minute.
Elsewhere, Manchester Storm raced into a 3-0 first-period lead but could not prevent Glasgow Clan staging a remarkable third-period fightback before going on to win 6-5 in overtime through Nolan LaPorte.