For the fourth time this season, Sheffield Steelers “split” a weekend - suggesting an Elite League title will be a tough ask unless this fast-changing team can find a consistent run.
The new Italian contingent - well, they are bellissimo!
Last night, Sheffield had five players out injured, but handed a debut to freshly-signed Rob Sirianni, a 29-year-old Italian Canadian with an eye for goal and a deft touch.
He promptly scored a hat-trick...and the Arena had a new hero.
Sirianni is nowhere near match-fit, so what will he be capable of in the weeks to come?
He gave notice of his quality after just four minutes, planting the puck cleanly into the top corner on the Power Play.
That precise strike equalised one from Mac Faulkner after just 24 seconds.
Sheffield D-man Mark Thomas had an unusual aberration, losing the puck by being too fancy in his own zone, Faulkner beating Frank Doyle, courtesy of a rebound off a defenceman.
But after that departure from the norm, Sheffield were clearly the better team.
They deserved a second goal and Sirianni, unintentionally, was influential when it came.
He was caught high, off the play, by Tyson Marsh. While the Devil was in the box, Italian-Canadian Nate Dicasmirro cleverly reversing a pass from behind the line to Chad Langlais, who set up Tim Spencer for 2-1 at 17;09.
Sheffield were imperious in a 4-1 middle period.
Rob Dowd drew a power play which put Dicasmirro on the scoresheet.
The officials then missed Jeff Legue slashing Brad Plumton, the Sheffield centreman scoring on the same shift!
Against the run of play though Drew Fata surrendered possession and Devils’ Tyson Marsh smashed it home for 4-2.
But then two goals in 18 seconds from sniper Sirianni gave Sheffield a massive 6-2 advantage. A hat-trick is not a bad way of celebrating your arrival.
Cardiff is a team “desperate for wins” according to Sheffield coach Doug Christiansen.
And they got one back through Phil Hill at 41:41.
Without stating the obvious, Sheffield now had to avoid conceding.
We have seen them lose confidence before when a lead is eroded.
But with Doyle in no mood for giveaways, that wasn’t going to happen.
The only jarring note of the last period was when Ilpo Salmirvirto thundered a slapshot into teammate Tin Spencer’s helmet.
* Christiansen’s return to his old club Belfast Giants saw a torrid middle period in which the visitors were outshot 17-4.
But they got back into the game and the issue was only put out of doubt by a last minute empty net goal.
Craig Peacock had handed Giants an early advantage. And Jeff Swez added another in that dominating second session. Legue and Dowd twice made it a one-goal game, with Adam Keefe scoring for Giants. That’s the way it stayed until Dustin Whitecotton found the empty net at 59.47.
* Steelers defenceman Gord Baldwin have been banned for five matches for kicking following a supplementary discipline review.
Belfast Giants requested the review following an incident in the second period (26:03) of Saturday’s game.
The incident was reviewed by head of discipline Moray Hanson and he has assessed a match penalty for kicking.
This penalty carries an automatic five-match suspension, which cannot be appealed.
Baldwin will miss the following games: 1) Fife Flyers v Sheffield Steelers – 19th October 2) Sheffield Steelers v Belfast Giants – 20th October 3) Sheffield Steelers v Fife Flyers – 26th October 4) Coventry Blaze v Sheffield Steelers – 27th October 5) Sheffield Steelers v Coventry Blaze – 31st October.