Sheffield Steeldogs and Leeds Knights set to battle for top spot in NIHL National Autumn Cup group

SHEFFIELD STEELDOGS bounced back from a second straight loss to hammer Milton Keynes Lightning and set up a grand finale to the group stages of the Autumn Cup with Leeds Knights.

Leeds Knights and Sheffield Steeldogs will meet at ice Sheffield this Friday to determine who finishes top of the NIHL Autumn Cup group standings. Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints.

The Knights’ failure to extend their unbeaten start to seven games when losing out 5-4 at home to Peterborough Phantoms means there is only one point between the Yorkshire rivals ahead of Friday night’s showdown at Ice Sheffield (7.30pm).

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The Knights still top the group standings - even if the excuse for a website that the EIHA maintains still states otherwise - courtesy of their win in Milton Keynes on Saturday night, coming from behind to win 6-3.

ON TARGET: Jason Hewitt scored five goals across both nights at the weekend, including a hat-trick in the 8-1 hammering of Milton Keynes at home on Sunday. Picture courtesy of Steeldogs Media.

But this week’s eagerly-anticipated Yorkshire derby will now produce the team which enters the semi-final stages of the competition as the top seed.

Jason Hewitt was the leading man for the Steeldogs on home ice on Sunday night, recording a stellar 3+3 performance, getting the hosts off to the perfect start with two strikes inside the first nine minutes, the second coming on the power play.

It was 4-0 just after the halfway mark when Matt Bissonnette’s 29th-minute strike was followed by James Spurr’s first of the night at 30.07.

The Lightning showed some response when they got on the board at 32.53 through Bobby Chamberlain, but a hat-trick strike from his former coach at Hull Pirates at 39.59 cancelled that out.

James Spurr had a 2+2 night in the 8-1 win for Sheffield Steeldgos over Milton Keynes Lightning. Picture courtesy of Steeledogs Media.

Deenceman Lee Haywood, who on Friday returned to the club where he started, got his first of the campaign to make it 6-1 at 48.33, with Spurr adding his second just over four minutes later and Lee Bonner rounding off the scoring at 57.01.

On Saturday, Greg Wood’s side were hoping to bounce back from a first defeat of the season when they lost out 4-3 at home to Basingstoke Bison.

But they were to be edged out by the same scoreline on the road at Peterborough, although the point they gained in the overtime defeat could yet prove crucial.

After falling behind to an early Alex Padelek strike, Hewitt levelled for the visitors before Bonner struck at 16.48 to give them the lead.

Corey Mcewen levelled before the end of the period for the Phantoms, although they were chasing the game again after Hewitt grabbed his second of the night at 26.27 to make it 3-2.

As the final 10 minutes approached, the Steeldogs were still ahead until their former forward Duncan Speirs levelled at 49.58, Padelek then grabbing the extra point for the hosts just over two minutes into overtime.

It was a second straight defeat for Wood and his players, but the bounce-back win over Lightning the following night, combined with Leeds’s first reverse of the campaign at Elland Road, means there is everything to play for come Friday.

The two met in pre-season in an at-times fiesty encounter at Elland Road, the Knights edging it 4-3. But with more at stake this time around, it is expected to be an even fiercer meeting.