Sheffield Steelers 4 Cardiff Devils 0 (Sunday)
Sheffield Steelers 6 Braehead Clan 2 (Saturday)
THE Ahearne trophy, a magnificent if obscure piece of glassware that has been gathering dust for years in Steelers’ trophy cabinet, was recalled back by the Elite League organisation last night.
It was boxed up and given to referee Mike Hicks for safe passage.
Whether Steelers will also have to cough up the Elite League Trophy in a similar circumstances shortly remains to be seen.
Coach Ryan Finnerty has a brief to win all remaining league games to guarantee that doesn’t happen.
Over the weekend just gone, he kept his end of the bargain with satisfactory wins over Welsh and Scottish opponents.
Next weekend, Finnerty has the task of getting two more wins over the Northern Irish; league leaders Belfast Giants, who remain seven points ahead of Steelers although have played two games more.
Last night at Sheffield Arena, neither team could sustain any early offensive threat in a first period ruined by a steady, flow of minor penalties.
Sheffield’s roaming defencemen Steve Birnstill and Rod Sarich both threatened with efforts but Devils had equal opportunities at the other end.
Fourth-placed Cardiff, who have lost influential wingers Max Birbrear and Brad Voth through injury, rely greatly on American forward Jeff Pierce - and Sheffield player coach Finnerty made sure he got under his skin with some choice digs.
As in the previous evening, Steelers were a much more robust, incisive side in the middle session.
A defensive slip-up let in Finnerty, who calmly slotted low past Stevie Lyle.
Then came a brilliant short-handed goal. Jeff Legue broke away and instinctively found linemate Mike Ramsay who made it 2-0 at the half way point.
Ramsay then added another, skating directly in to Lyle’s domain and poking the puck underneath him.
Devils have won all but one of the last nine, but aren’t in the same bracket of some of the great Cardiff sides - and a rout looked possible.
Jason Hewitt added a fourth to increase the likelihood in the last period.
But Steelers took the sensible defensive option, keeping Devils’ forwards to the perimeter.
This allowed John DeCaro, in goal, a decent view of the shots coming in, and helped him secure another shut out.
n Skipper Jonathan Phillips scored a brace for the first time this season to lead Sheffield to a Saturday night win.
The team’s number 20 missed the same number of matches from September to December with a knee injury but his energy and skating style was rewarded with a second period double.
Sheffield, who had gone behind twice earlier won that session 4-1, a big enough margin to ensure overall victory.
Clan man Lee Michell had netted first at 4.53; 10 seconds later Tom Squires levelled.
The League’s top sniper Jade Galbraith again put Braehead ahead before the middle period onslaught which saw other home strikes from Colt King and Legue, in his 300th all-time EIHL competitive game.
Luke Fulghum completed a decent night with the sixth.