ICE HOCKEY: Fine road double keeps Steelers in the title hunt

Ashley Tait - Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers
Ashley Tait - Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers
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Hull Stingrays 1 Sheffield Steelers 3 (Sunday)

Belfast Giants 1 Sheffield Steelers 4 (Saturday)

SHEFFIELD Steelers have 20 games in which to execute Mission Impossible - overtake league leaders Nottingham Panthers.

Winger Jason Hewitt’s candid assessment in Saturday’s Star was that his team must develop a win-every-game mindset.

And at the weekend they did their part, with two excellent road victories.

Sadly, the maximum haul didn’t make a dint on Panthers lead at the top - they also clocked up two wins, (1-0 and 4-1) over Coventry Blaze, to protect their nine point advantage over Steelers.

Coach Ryan Finnerty said: “Nottingham are clear favourites but we have got four games left against them so anything is possible. This League is far from a done deal.”

Steelers trip to Belfast, a team immediately above them in the rankings was a vital outing.

Sheffield had lost three of their previous five matches, the first of that sequence being in Northern Ireland.

It meant they started the night seven points adrift of Giants, in second place.

But they skated out in front of 5,273 fans in confidence, remembering perhaps, that they had put five goals past them on to occasions earlier this season.

Scott Champagne enjoyed a decent debut, but the star of the show was the team’s Penalty Kill - blocking all eight Giants’ penalties

Giants looked fallible, particularly in the second period, when Sheffield outshot them and Steve Goertzen and Jeff Legue handed the visitors a 2-0 lead. It looked plain-sailing against the Stena Line-sponsored hosts when Ashley Tait made it three at 44.37, a second consecutive assist going to Rod Sarich.

A shut out was lost at 58.44 when Canadian forward Daymen Rycroft beat John DeCaro.

A minute later goalie Stephen Murphy was lifted by coach Doug Christiansen but the move was exploited as Simon Ferguson scored an empty netter at 59.45.

In Hull, the game was seconds old when Chris Frank and Ryan Hand fought a heavyweight contest; Hand copping for a 10 minute misconduct penalty on top of the five for fighting and two for instigating.

Sheffield settled into their stride though. And when Kurtis Dulle took a tripping minor, they went ahead on the Power Play, Drew Fata and Tait making the play for Tylor Michel to score.

Tait was instrumental in Steelers’ second at 28;09, tucked away by Shawn Limpright.

And six minutes into the last session it was game over, with the hard working line of Jonathan Phillips (scorer) Michel and Hewitt making it 3-0.

Hull rewarded their fans with a consolation from Jereme Tendler, before Steelers shut up shop.