Sheffield Steelers draw blank but Elite League title rivals still made to chase the hard way

BIG GOAL: Guildford's Ian Watters celebrates one of his two goals that helped beat Sheffield Steelers 6-5 on Sunday night at The Spectrum. Picture: John Uwins/EIHL.
BIG GOAL: Guildford's Ian Watters celebrates one of his two goals that helped beat Sheffield Steelers 6-5 on Sunday night at The Spectrum. Picture: John Uwins/EIHL.
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SHEFFIELD STEELERS suffered a rare pointless weekend, although the damage to their Elite League title hopes could have been worse.

The Steelers came undone on home ice against Nottingham Panthers on Saturday night, losing out 5-1, before a brave comeback at Guildford Flames was ultimately thwarted in a 6-5 defeat.

The silver lining for Aaron Fox’s team came in results elsewhere, with Cardiff Devils and Belfast Giants cancelling each other out on their double-header weekend in Northern Ireland, the hosts winning 1-0 on Saturday before Andrew Lord’s evened the score, literally, 24 hours later.

It means the Steelers’ lead at the top of the standings has been reduced to five points by Cardiff, who have four games in hand, while Belfast are a further two points back, with two games to make up on the leaders.

Nottingham followed up their impressive performance at the FlyDSA Arena on Saturday with a 2-0 win over bottom-of-the-table Fife Flyers, meaning they remain nine points off the Steelers with four games in hand.

The Steelers actually got off to a flying start at The Spectrum last night, going ahead with an early power play strike from Marek Troncinsky with just 95 seconds played.

Sheffield Steelers' Tanner Eberle takes a tumble during Saturday's 5-1 defeat at home to Nottingham Panthers. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Sheffield Steelers' Tanner Eberle takes a tumble during Saturday's 5-1 defeat at home to Nottingham Panthers. Picture: Dean Woolley.

But the visitors found themselves 4-1 down five minutes into the second period after the hosts roared back with goals from Joshua Waller, Jesse Craige, Ian Watters and Braylon Shmyr.

It wasn’t long, however, before the Steelers were back in the game, first Nikolai Lemtyugov getting on the board at 28.10 before John Armstrong made it a one-goal game just over two minutes later.

John Dunbar put Guildford two goals ahead again before the interval, only for the Steelers to hit back again, this time pulling level through strikes from Marc-Olivier Vallerand and Michael Davies.

But Watters was to have the final say on the night when he doubled his tally at 56.22 for the game-winner.

On Saturday, the Steelers’ seven-game unbeaten streak was ended in emphatic style by the Panthers, who were ahead after 20 minutes through Julian Talbot’s power play strike at 5.46.

The Steelers levelled through their own power play effort by Tanner Eberle at 21.54 but the game was gone after 40 minutes after the Panthers raced into a 4-1 lead through Sam Herr, Dylan Malmquist and Brett Perlini.

Jacob Hansen’s 42nd-minute strike on a two-on-one breakaway sealed the points for the visitors.