Steelers: League flop but cup joy

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It could have been awkward.

During a one-minute gesture of respectful applause, following the death of the daughter of ex-player Randy Dagenais, Belfast Giants went and scored.

Dustin Kohn in action for Sheffield Steelers in the 3-1 defeat to Belfast Giants

Dustin Kohn in action for Sheffield Steelers in the 3-1 defeat to Belfast Giants

After their goal, the game stopped, for the face off. But the clapping didn’t.

Belfast fans celebrated - then joined in with the Dagenais applause too. It was a class act from them; and their players didn’t over-celebrate, either, after Darryl Lloyd’s strike.

So no awkwardness there - but, in sporting terms, there was plenty.

This was a game Steelers HAD to win, to avoid dead rubber League games. But when chances came, they couldn’t execute. And when they were one down they were caught pressing; two turnovers leading to two goals.

Giants are too good in their own zone to allow anyone back from 0-3 down and they survived the last 20-minutes.

Doug Christiansen, who left Belfast for the greener grass of Sheffield, was left to ponder a slow start: “I expected us to come blazing out of the gate, but it wasn’t to be.” It’s the story of the season.

Giants, meanwhile, are a team that make few mistakes and will almost certainly be champions 2013-4.

After they’d gone ahead, they were forced on the back foot as Steelers hunted an equaliser. Jeff Legue and Gord Baldwin were unfortunate not to have levelled and Rob Sirianni dallied just a second too long to lose another opportunity.

Steelers killed off a five-on-three penalty and the momentum seemed with them.

But a shot from Belfast top scorer Kevin Saurette sneaked past Frank Doyle, despite the goalie getting something on it, at 24;19. Ten minutes later Adam Keefe’s cross was forehanded home by Evan Cheverie.

Stephen Murphy halted Steve Goertzen’s breakaway but Sheffield were now offensively energised, Nate DiCasmirro scoring and Danny Meyers crashing a shot off the bar. Further precision was missing though, Sirianni missing on the back-hand. Belfast ran up their 25th regulation win of the season.

Last night Steelers took their 4-0 first leg Challenge Cup quarter final lead to Dundee - and set off well, with Max Lacroix scoring on 4;52. Sirianni added a second five minutes later, although Russian forward Nikita Kashirsky got one back.

Drew Fata and Tim Spencer got a brace with John Dolan scoring for Dundee in between, for 4-2.

It seemed plain sailing when Sirianni grabbed a fifth - but then came three straight for Stars in six torrid minutes, from Rory Rawlyk and Nico Sacchetti, two.

It was crazy - but DiCasmirro added a Steeler sixth - the winner on the night (55:48).

Steelers’ first leg semi final tickets for the match against Nottingham Panthers on February 12 will go on sale this morning.