SHEFFIELD Steelers’ chase for the double galloped over its first obstacle last night.
The newly-crowned League Champions opened their Play Off account with a 6-1 quarter final first leg victory over Dundee Stars.
It surely leaves Saturday’s second leg in Scotland as something of a formality.
Most of the fans arriving at the Arena expected a comfortable Steelers win given the fact the league title holders had beaten Stars on all six previous meetings in the league.
Among those games were two 7-0 wins and a 6-0.
Coach Ben Simon will have been more cautious though.
In their last game, in February, Sheffield won by just two goals.
And Dundee player-coach Dan Ceman had gone into the game proclaiming that they “had nothing to lose - we have reached our first-year target in making the play-offs and everything now is a bonus.”
That sentiment manifested itself in the first period, even though Sheffield’s first shift of the night scored.
Jason Hewitt and Derek Campbell combined to tee-up Rob Dowd, who netted his sixth goal of the season against Stars, after just 46 seconds.
For a while, the grittiness of Play Off hockey submerged the skill factor. Even flair players like Rob Globke were throwing their weight around, while Hewitt was almost beheaded by a high challenge from Jay Lutulippe.
Stars didn’t look an eighth-placed league team and could have levelled when Sam McLuskey evaded the forecheck. Mark Nebus was unfortunate not to bury a rebound off Ervins Mustukovs.
But with 18 seconds of the session left, Joey Talbot drove home a Power Play second.
Sheffield upped their game and hammered four unanswered goals past Stars in the next stanza; but they had to pay a physical price as Globke was sticked in the groin, Neil Clark to the face and Jeff Legue to the neck, by stick-happy goalie Ladislav Kudrna.
There was a brief battle which saw Derek Campbell and Chris Zarb thrown out of the game.
The goals came from Globke, a glorious roofed effort after a skate down the left wing, a typical predatory effort from Talbot, Jeff Legue on a 5-on-3 power play and a delicate tip-in from Clark.
A 6-0 lead killed off any notion of a credible contest.
And Steelers did what they did in the last two matches, effectively played out the final period.
Some players’ intensity levels dropped - although that can’t be said of player coach Ben Simon, who always plays as if his life depends on it.
Stars got themselves on the score sheet in the dying seconds, courtesy of Steve Makway.
Steelers will have to lose an import from their line-up next season. The Elite League sanctioned a reduction of maximum imports to 10 per cent per team. The idea is to enhance the opportunity for British-trained players.