Steelers close the gap on title rivals

SHEFFIELD Steelers head to Edinburgh on Sunday looking to ensure they head back to South Yorkshire with a maximum return.

A hard-fought 2-1 victory at bottom club Fife Flyers was sealed just 24 hours after an impressive 4-1 win at Coventry Blaze on Friday night, leaving Ryan Finnerty’s men with a tricky finish to the weekend at seventh-placed Edinburgh Capitals.

A 21st goal of the season from Jeff Legue at 5.32 was all that separated the teams at the end of the first period and it wasn’t until the 38th minute that the Canadian centre added to his team’s tally, doubling the lead on the powerplay.

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The Flyers had gone into the weekend rocked by the departures of three key players in recent days. Import forwards Matt Siddall and Mike Hamilton left to take up deals in Italy and North America respectively, before Iain Bowie leaving on Friday ahead of a return to Edinburgh.

But Todd Dutiaume’s side got just rewards for their efforts at 56.30, with Steve Gunn’s sixth goal of the season ensuring a nervous final few minutes for the Steelers.

“It’s been a tough couple of days, but that’s what we expected,” said Finnerty afterwards. “These are our valuable games in hand with us catching a game up on Nottingham and two on Belfast.

“If we can deliver six points from the three games it will be an incredible effort.”

Hull Stingrays endured further misery at the hands of Braehead Clan - the two meet again in Hull on Sunday night - when they went down 3-1.

Sylvain Cloutier’s team enjoyed a 9-4 triumph over Scotland’s leading club back in October but player-coach Drew Bannister has now guided his team to victory over his former club three times now,

The hosts were two goals ahead in just under seven minutes when Adam Walker’s second-minute strike was followed by another goal by Jordan Krestanovich at 6.54.

Derek Campbell halved the deficit at 10.46 with his sixth goal of the season and that is how things stayed until the 49th minute when Krestanovich doubled his tally to secure both points.

A frustrated Cloutier urged his players to pick their game up for Sunday night’s rematch in Hull, warning them that a place in the post-season play-offs was not guaranteed.

“We had three turnovers and it resulted in three goals,” he said. “It has to be addressed.

“We were trying to beat guys one on one and then the puck ended in the back of our net. We are not good enough to do that.

“There are 12 weeks of the season left and we have to start picking it up if we want to make the play-offs.”