Road awareness and home comforts combine well for resurgent Sheffield Steelers

SHEFFIELD STEELERS currently hold the record for the longest winning streak this season.

Sheffield Steelers' Levi Nelson turns away to celebrate scoring the opening goal against Belfast Giants on Sunday night. Picture: Dean Woolley.

And after a four-point weekend garnered from wins over Fife Flyers and Belfast Giants, there is every chance it will be they themselves who go on to beat that record.

After defeat to Cardiff Devils on the opening night of their domestic campaign, Steelers won eight straight games in both the Elite League and Challenge Cup.

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Their two latest successes may only have extended their current win streak to four games, but there are striking similarities in the two runs.

Both runs have seen them average four goals per game. At the other end, they conceded just 11 goals in eight games as they swept all before them earlier in the season. In their current streak, they have shipped only one goal per game.

Granted, there are some tough games on the horizon - not least the traditional Christmas double-header against Nottingham Panthers - but, after a wobbly November, Paul Thompson’s players are again resembling the team who made others sit up and take notice through the first six weeks of the domestic season.

In Sheffield on Sunday night, the defending league champions again proved efficient, this time against rivals who are expected to push them all the way for the regular season title.

Levi Nelson put the hosts ahead at 13.40, but it wasn’t until the third period that Steelers doubled their lead, Guillaume Desbiens benefitting from good work by Mathieu Roy and Jeff Legue at 47.03.

Kris Beech struck back for the Giants at 52.07, but the Steelers held out, with Cullen Eddy’s empty-netter adding welcome insurance with 61 seconds remaining.

“It’s been a six-point week after beating Edinburgh on Wednesday,” said a delighted Thompson.

“I thought we played a great road game in Fife. It wasn’t flashy but I felt we played an intelligent road game, very smart. We nullified them and kept a lot of their opportunities to the outside

“The game against Belfast was a tight one - against a very good club.

Levi Nelson fires home past Stephen Murphy for Steelers' opener against Belfast. Picture: Dean Woolley.

“You need that second goal and it was a lovely execution, from Roy to Leggy (Legue) and then Dessy was on the spot and he’s made a big impact for him since he came in. I’m really, really happy with him.

“He goes to the dirty areas, he does the little things and he gets low net presence, finishes his hits and he does whatever it takes to win a game and he’s been a huge find for us.”

Having seen off Fife in a comfortable manner on home ice last weekend in a 3-1 win, the Steelers repeated their performance in Kirkcaldy on Saturday despite going behind in the first period.

Goals from Robert Dowd, Ben O’Connor, Colton Fretter and an empty-net strike from Mathieu Roy banked another two points for a fifth win in six games.

Colton Fretter, scored his fourth goal in two games for the Steelers at Fife on Saturday night. Picture: Dean Woolley.

An ever-improving Pinc excelled for the visitors in turning away 27 of 28 shots.

The breakthrough for the home side came at 12.18 when, with Zack Fitzgerald in the box on a slashing call, Jeff Lee pounced to fire past Pinc.

Dowd tied the game 1-1 at 16.11 with stand-in captain Rod Sarich and Tyler Mosienko registering assists, before the Steelers took control in the second period.

With the Flyers’ Michael Door off for slashing, O’Connor fired home for a 2-1 lead at 21.12.

Then, with Lee sitting out another slashing minor, Colton Fretter scored his fourth goal in two games, Mosienko and Desbiens on hand with assists at 27.56.

That is how it stayed until the last two minutes when with 95 seconds remaining, Fife pulled goalie David Brown.

As he made his way to the bench for the extra attacker the puck passed him and he prevented a scoring chance for Roy, leaving referee Neil Wilson to award an empty netter for a 4-1 win.

“I was happy with the performance as well as the result,” added Thompson.

“We didn’t come here to be flashy, we came here to be efficient and effective.

“In the first period we had to kill four Fife powerplays before we had our first opportunity at the start of the second. We bagged two quick powerplay goals and never looked back after that.

“I was delighted how we minimised scoring chances against us and just thought we were solid all night. I was very pleased.”