Sheffield Steelers strike back to fell Belfast Giants and ensure Elite League title race remains neck and neck

AARON FOX praised the battling qualities of his Sheffield Steelers’ team after they hit back to square their double-header weekend with Elite League title rivals Belfast Giants.

WINNING STRIKE: Sheffield Steelers' Tanner Eberle (second left) celebrates scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal against Belfast Giants at the SSE Arena on Saturday night. Picture: Darren Kidd/Presseye/EIHL
WINNING STRIKE: Sheffield Steelers' Tanner Eberle (second left) celebrates scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal against Belfast Giants at the SSE Arena on Saturday night. Picture: Darren Kidd/Presseye/EIHL

The Steelers had come off second-best on Friday night at the SSE Arena when on the end of a 5-1 defeat against Adam Keefe’s team, but they responded in the best way possible 24 hours later, snapping a four-game losing streak with a 5-2 triumph.

It leaves them two points behind leaders Belfast with a game in hand, although the Giants have a better record in terms of regulation wins, meaning they are effectively three points ehad.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

But the Steelers remain firmly in control of their own destiny, three of their 12 remaining games being against the Giants, who visit South Yorkshire for a pivotal double-header weekend on April 9-10.

Belfast Giants' Mark Cooper battles with Sheffield Steelers' defender Davey Phillips and goaltender Rok Stojanovic during Saturday night's clash at the SSE Arena, Belfast. Picture: Darren Kidd/Presseye/EIHL.

The Steelers then have to pay a visit to Belfast for their last game of the regular season on April 15.

“It was a good hockey game,” said head coach Fox. “There was a play-off mentality there and I felt we played a heavy, physical game.

“We had all the guys that bought in tonight and we created some of our own luck, which is something I felt we’d been missing for the last three or four games – our energy hasn’t been there for the full 60.

“But I thought we battled and deserved the two points.”

The Steelers’ fans who made the trip across the North Sea may have feared they were in for a repeat of the previous night when they saw their team fall behind to a JJ Piccinich power play strike inside three minutes.

But they were soon on level terms when John Armstrong hit back just 72 seconds later and although Martin Latal put the visitors ahead at 14.37, the teams went in all-square at the first break after GB forward Ben Lake equalised with a tip-in at 18.55.

The go-ahead goal and what proved to be the game-winning strike came from the stick of Tanner Eberle at 26.46 off a feed from recent arrival Nico Feldner.

The Steelers’ 3-2 advantage remained in place deep into the third when Adrian Saxrud Danielsen’s stretch pass put Brandon Whistle clean through on goal from where he beat Tyler Beskorowany high on his backhand to make it 4-2 at 50:39.

As the Giants chased the game and pulled their goalie, Rob Dowd fired into the empty net with 23 seconds left.