SHEFFIELD STEELDOGS ensured they ended 2019 on a positive note by heaping further misery on struggling Yorkshire rivals Leeds Chiefs.
The NIHL National’s bottom-placed team went into the New Year's Eve encounter at Ice Sheffield on the back of their heaviest defeat of the season after being hammered 11-1 at Bracknell Bees on Sunday night.
And while the Steeldogs couldn’t quite match that margin of victory, they showed little mercy as the still-homeless Chiefs’ season threatens to unravel at an alarming rate unless the rot can be stopped.
The Chiefs, with former Steeldogs' favourite Ashley Calvert in their ranks, had bolstered their short bench before the game by adding temporary cover in the shape of forward Richie Haggar from NIHL North Two outfit Hull Jets and Billingham Stars' teenage defenceman Dylan Heir - brother of Leeds forward Ethan.
But, as in Berkshire two days earlier, the game was effectively over as a contest after the first period.
Jan Danecek got things rolling for Ben Morgan’s team in the fifth minute when he ghosted in from the right wing unhindered before squeezing the puck underneath Sam Gospel in the Chiefs’ goal.
The impressive Alex Graham – on a two-way deal from Sheffield Steelers and picked for GB Under-18s World Championship squad in March along with team-mates Jack Brammer and Jordan Griffin – doubled the advantage when he showed great strength to hold off his opponent before firing over Gospel’s right shoulder at 8.30.
The Chiefs had struggled to gain much time in the Steeldogs’ zone and would have gladly settled for being just 2-0 down at the first break, but, with just over two minutes remaining, player-coach Sam Zajac was caught in possession behind the net by Brammer, who then fed Charlie Thompson to fire home from point-blank range at 17.12.
Just over a minute later it was 4-0 when James Spurr was left all alone in front of the net to fire past the helpless Gospel.
Any faint hopes Leeds may have entertained of a comeback were blown away when they conceded four power play goals in five minutes before the halfway mark had been reached – Vladimir Luka (2), Danecek, and Craig Elliott all finding the net.
Richard Bentham got the visitors on the board in the 31st minute when he back-handed past replacement netminder Curtis Warburton for a short-naded marker before the Chiefs then safely negotiated further penalty trouble – including nearly two minutes of 5-on-3 – without conceding any further goals.
A combination of playing for pride and the Steeldogs possibly easing down somewhat meant the Chiefs came out of the third period even with their hosts.
They fell further behind when Elliott grabbed his second of the night at 51.29, but Haggar capped an impressive performance by replying just over a minute later.