Edinburgh 3 Sheffield Steelers 4 (Sunday) Fife 1 Steelers 2 (Saturday)
SHEFFIELD Steelers came from behind to notch their 24th win in 28 games with a 4-3 success at Edinburgh Capitals to keep their title challenge on track thanks to three straight, third-period goals in two deadly minutes.
A number of missed chances and the form of Edinburgh’s Welsh-born netminder Nathan Craze meant they had to work hard for their victory.
Sheffield opened brightly, their slick passing causing Capitals problems. They enjoyed plenty of possession but the Yorkshire side had no real punch.
Then it clicked. Mike Ramsay slapped from just inside the blue line and Craze went low to gather.
Capitals were always capable of picking up on a mistake and goaltender John deCaro mopped up when Colt King blundered just inside the blue line.
Then deCaro had to be alert to deal with a Peter Holecko slap before Lee Esders broke the deadlock after 12 minutes.
That fired-up Steelers and a neat move down the right involving busy Ramsay and Jeff Legue forced Craze low.
Tom Squires then had a glit edged chance but failed to make contact and skipper Francis Trudel forced Craze into action again.
Capitals, however, were not out of the play and their skipper Jan Safar’s rushed into the Sheffield zone and forced deCaro into action.
And the goaltender was alert as Peter Holecko fired towards goal but at the other end Jason Hewitt almost netted short-handed and Trudel forced Craze to save high up.
Sheffield were on top now and King failed to find the target and Hewitt was also a sinner in front of goal.
Craze then led a charmed life as Steelers passed up several chances and they were left to rue the misses as Rene Jarolin pushed the puck over the line after a stramash in front of the Steelers goal.
The goal was Capitals 600th all-time in the Elite League but Sheffield opened the final stanza brightly, pinning Capitals back in their zone.
Four minutes later Steelers were reeling as Jarolin lifted his hands in triumph as they netted their second with new signing Iain Bowie and player/coach Richard Hartmann assisting.
Steelers were back on level terms at 46min 37sec when Jonathan Phillips netted. Matt Stephenson’s rush was blocked but Capitals failed to clear.
The visitors bore down on Capitals goal in a bid to go ahead for a second time. Their pressure paid off when Steve Birnstill scored two minutes later and Colt King made it 4-2 only 19 seconds later. The 120 travelling fans celebrated in style.
Trudel’s penalty 42 seconds from time put Sheffield under pressure and Marcis Zembergs made them pay with a third 12 seconds from time on the power play but the visitors held out.
On Saturday, title-chasing Steelers had to fight all the way against bottom club Fife Flyers.
The Kirkcaldy combine, who have lost key forward Matt Siddall and Mike Hamilton, plus home-bred talent Iain Bowie, in the last two weeks, lost 2-1 after being 2-0 down early on.
Fife reshuffled their lines to compensate for their losses, and dug deep to keep it a one-goal game.
A single strike from Jeff Legue at 5min 32sec was all that separated the teams after the first session.
Sheffield added a second in the 38th minute as Legue netted on the powerplay.
Never-say-die Flyers halved the deficit with less than four minutes left from Steven Gunn.
The goal set up a tense last few minutes and, despite pulling their goaltender, Fife were unable to tie the scores in a game in which they were outshot 29-27.
Commenting on the weekend, Neil Abel, Sheffield’s bench coach, said: “I don’t think they (Fife) really missed the two guys who have left.
“They just come out and skate all night and they are in your face all the time.
“The goalie helps them a lot the amount of saves he was making, off the skate and off the toe, and I think they are lucky he is hanging about.
“We got off to a great start at Fife and we thought we would score more goals but they upped the tempo because they needed too as they were missing those guys.
“They played all right and they changed their lines. They had three steady lines and they just came out and skated.
“They were in out face all night and hassled. There was not a lot of difference in the shots on goal.”
And the Fife-born former player added: “We needed to win at Murrayfield because Cardiff did us a favour last night (beating Nottingham on Saturday).
“These boys (Edinburgh) play a lot better than Fife do and we attempted to contain them for the first ten to 15 minutes as they have one line and you attempt to skate them off.”