Sheffield Steelers give Elite League title hopes massive boost with wins over rivals Cardiff Devils and Belfast Giants

Sheffield Steelers' celebrate during their 5-4 win at Cardiff Devils on SAturday night. Picture courtesy of Dave Williams/EIHL.
Sheffield Steelers' celebrate during their 5-4 win at Cardiff Devils on SAturday night. Picture courtesy of Dave Williams/EIHL.
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IT IS upon weekends like this one, that titles are decided.

The three-way battle for the regular season Elite League championship - that most prized piece of silverware in the British game - may very well still go down to the wire, but it is results like the two fashioned by Sheffield Steelers in the past 48 hours which will prove to be among the key moments should it be they who prevail.

NOT THIS TIME: Steelers' netminder Tomas Duba denies Belfast's Ben Lake. Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley.

NOT THIS TIME: Steelers' netminder Tomas Duba denies Belfast's Ben Lake. Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley.

On Sunday night and without the model of consistency that has been Brendan Connolly after the EIHL’s Department of Player Safety imposed a one-match ban for a cross-checking incident in Saturday’s stirring 5-4 win at Cardiff Devils, the Steelers put a significant dent in Belfast Giants’ own faltering title hopes with a 4-1 home win.

For their efforts, Aaron Fox’s team can now revel in a seven-point lead at the top of the standings, their cause given a further shot in the arm when Cardiff fell 5-2 on the road at Dundee Stars 24 hours after being toppled in front of their home fans by the Steelers.

Sunday's game at the FlyDSA Arena was one primarily determined by special teams, Marek Troncinsky putting the Steelers ahead at 2.13 on the power play before the Giants made their own man advantage count six minutes later through Jordan Smotherman.

The Steelers re-established their superiority through a power play effort from Tanner Eberle at 15.15 with another goal on the man advantage doubling their lead at 37.28 through Michael Davies, the scoring concluded with an empty-net strike from James Bettauer with just under two minutes left on the clock.

NICE ONE: Michael Davies celebrates his third period power play strike against Belfast. Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley.

NICE ONE: Michael Davies celebrates his third period power play strike against Belfast. Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley.

It all made for a wonderful evening in South Yorkshire, coming just 24 hours after the Steelers had finally got the better of long-time rivals Cardiff.

Twice the hosts got themselves ahead, twice the Steelers came roaring back.

The hosts' lead gained by Charles Linglet’s 11th-minute opener was doubled just before the halfway mark with Matt Pope’s stinging finish on a power play.

But John Armstrong’s back-handed finish past Ben Bowns at 30.35 following a break down the middle from Troncinsky gave the visitors impetus, something they pressed home to level through the Czech Republic defenceman’s power play strike just under two minutes later.

The Steelers then got ahead through Davies at 37.52, but the Devils were level within a minute of the third period restart when Blair Riley fired past Tomas Duba, the visitors’ netminder again helpless when Joey Haddad put the hosts in front from a similar position just 50 seconds later.

But, as on so many previous occasions this season, the Steelers showed commendable resolve, levelling through a tip-in from Lucas Sandstrom off Davies’s piledriver at 54.03.

Just under two minutes later Marc-Olivier Vallerand showed great persistence to jab the puck through Bowns for what proved to be the most sweetest of game-winning goals.