Sheffield Steelers stay top ahead of showdown with closest rivals Cardiff Devils

IT is a case of ‘as you were’ for Sheffield Steelers’ Elite League title ambitions, as they managed to stay ahead of closest rivals Cardiff Devils.

Alex Graham, centre, celebrates his first goal for Sheffield Steelers' coming in Saturday's 8-2 win over Fife Flyers at the FlyDSA Arena. Picture: Dean Woolley,

The only thing to change is the number of games left for the respective title challengers to lift the crown, the Steelers with just six regular season encounters remaining, while Cardiff have the luxury of nine while sitting one point behind.

Nottingham also remain in the picture, doing themselves and the Steelers a massive favour when beating the Devils 7-3 at home on Saturday night.

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They slipped up with a 4-3 defeat in a shootout to Coventry last night, but Tim Wallace’s team sit five points back off the Steelers in third, with three games in hand.

Perhaps the season-defining game will be Friday night’s clash between the top two at the Viola Arena - two days before the rivals meet in the final of the Challenge Cup - but it seems every game between now and March 29 - no matter who is playing - will have some kind of impact on where the crown spends its summer.

The Steelers got their weekend off to the perfect start when coming from 2-0 down to thrash Fife Flyers 8-2, a rampant second period proving the undoing of Todd Dutiaume’s side at the FlyDSA Arena.

Aaron Johnson and Janne Kolehmainen struck 25 seconds apart to the tie game by 26.36, and just short of the halfway mark Nikolai Lemtyugov put the Steelers into the lead, before Tanner Eberle and Anthony DeLuca extended the lead to 5-2.

DeLuca struck again at 48.48, while Brendan Connoly and 17-year-old Alex Graham added further gloss to the win.

While news of Cardiff’s loss in Nottingham made for a perfect evening for the Steelers, it was a case of role reversal 24 hours later, the Steelers edged out 5-4 at Guildford Flames, while Cardiff were easing to a 6-2 victory at home to Dundee Stars.

The Steelers forged a 3-1 lead by the halfway mark through Marek Troncinsky, Lemtyugov and Marc-Olivier Vallerand, but allowed the Flames back in with three goals in as many minutes before the second period ended.

Jamie Crooks made it 5-3 to the hosts at 45.12 and although Ben O’Connor made it a one-goal game again 10 minutes later, that was as close as the Steelers got.

NOW HEAR THIS: Aaron Fox chats to his Sheffield Steelers' players on the bench during Saturday's 8-2 win over Fife Flyers. Picture: Dean Woolley.
NOT THIS TIME: Sheffield Steelers' goalie Tomas Duba gets down to deny Guildford's Ian Watters. Picture courtesy of John Uwins/EIHL.