On form Sheffield Steeldogs had a pair of tough games but came out with two victories - a 2-1 win at Basingstoke Bison and a 4-3 home conquest of Swindon Wildcats.
Steeldogs made another great start in Basingstoke and were two goals up at the 6.30 mark with an Andy Hirst power play strike following Arnoldas Bosas’ opener.
Sheffield again showed they could work hard and frustrate a quality side and only a goal by Long in the last minute put a dent in their performance through the first 20 minutes.
The chippy edge to the game surfaced early in the second period; Watt with a two handed slash on Bosas that saw the unusual sight of Dogs skipper Ben Morgan dropping the gloves in his defence and Watt getting thrown out of the game.
It was a tight game and Sheffield were happy to play a controlled, defensive game and look to take any chances that came on the counter attack.
Bison had a penalty shot in the final period but Lack shot wide and as the clocked counted down, the Steeldogs held on for the win.
As the buzzer sounded, the simmering tensions boiled over as everyone on the ice or the bench squared up (apart from the two starting net minders who stood back). Callum Pattison and Craig Elliott were in the thick of it, both picking up match penalties. It was an unpleasant end to a good night’s work by Steeldogs.
The stacked offensive of the Swindon Wildcats did not represent the easiest second half of the weekend but despite a late night and a bruising game, the Steeldogs traded chances in a close but good tempered game.
Two ex-Steelers exchanged goals around the half way mark; Tom Squires levelling after Aaron Nell’s opener. Yet another Bosas goal gave the Steeldogs the upper hand heading into the final frame.
A Carlo Finucci goal tied things up and Swindon appeared to have the momentum but Cole Shudra’s first goal in front of the home fans changed that and got the cheer of the night. Tom Squires second made it more comfortable even though a Hoog goal made it a nervous end.
Another four point weekend for the Steeldogs with both wins against teams higher in the EPL standings. The Dogs are now in a very comfortable 7th place, well ahead of Manchester in 8th and on the heels of Swindon, Telford and next Sunday’s opposition, the Guildford Flames.
Captain Ben Morgan said: “Basingstoke have a very strong team and can play physically when they need to, we were expecting that to be honest. We've been taking leads early in games recently and again we lead going into the first break, building on a strong performance.
"We were given a game plan similar to last week in Telford, we've been asked to stay disciplined, work hard in the right areas at the right times, we can turn teams over. Hopefully the rest of the league is looking at us now thinking that these are not surprise results. We are capable and you see most weekends we are now turning teams over.
“As for it kicking off at the end, I had a feeling that something might happen. The incident started when a Bison player fired a puck after the whistle at one of our players, so one of our players retaliated. The referee did quite well to sort out the melee afterwards, even telling 'outside agencies' (rink security) to back off while it was sorted.
"It was always going to be one of those games where it could spill over because obviously we'd won the game and they weren't happy with a few calls or the result itself. As I've said before we have plenty of toughness on the team and with Patto (Callum Pattison) on the bench nobody wants to mess about with you. It was a hard fought but it was two points at the end of the day.
“We always knew Swindon were going to push us hard. They have so much offence it could end up like a cricket score. But again we stuck to our game plan, we sat back in that last five minutes, hence the reason why they got their third goal. Dali (Sedlar – net minder) has put in another great shift for us this weekend; the defence has played a little short with Bell missing but worked hard in the games.
"That’s three wins and we want to start another winning streak like the one we had over Christmas/New Year”.