Steelers: Three losses on bounce devalue Sheffield’s attempt on league title

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Nottingham Panthers 4

Sheffield Steelers 1

(Sunday)

Belfast Giants 5

Steelers 2

(Saturday)

Stuttering Steelers’ title hopes hang in the balance after a poor performance in Nottingham last night capped a a no-point weekend for the league leaders.

It was charity weekend in Nottingham as Panthers raised money for the Teenage Cancer Trust and Steelers extended the sentiment on-ice by allowing themselves to be out-worked and out-played. Coach Ben Simon said: “We’re disappointed. We had a good opportunity to seal the deal and put a real dent in the league championship but we did not execute our game plan. Every team has had a dip during the season and unfortunately it seems to be our turn now.

“Belfast is a really big game now on Wednesday, it’s the league championship right there, and we have got to start preparing for that one.”

Sheffield went into the Notts game desperate for a confidence-booster to revitalise their title hopes after another inferior showing against Belfast on Saturday.

But they hadn’t mustered a strike on goal when they found themselves behind after two minutes. Jade Galbraith unleashed a shot from just inside the Steelers’ zone that should have been stopped by netminder Ervins Mustukovs.

Panthers should have been two ahead minutes later when Rob Bellamy found himself clear through with only Mustukovs to beat, but shot over. Sheffield looked lacking in confidence in defence, often struggling to clear their zone and the home side dominated for large sections of the game and it was no surprise when they doubled their lead on 26.06.

A David-Alexandre Beauregard pass found captain Danny Meyers free in front of goal for an easy shot. A close range shot from fellow Brit David Clarke then made it 3-0 on 31.31 to seal the game.

Steelers’ hopes of a turn-around were over in 91 seconds as Bellamy worked his way through the Sheffield defence to slot home on 41.31.

Craig Kowalski in the Nottingham net was finally beaten on 45.41 when Joey Talbot tipped in an Ashley Tait pass.

Rob Globke and coach Ben Simon both had chances to reduce the deficit but both efforts bounced off the bar to sum up Steelers’ night.

Saturday’s attempt at beating Belfast on Irish ice –- something the pumped up travellers had believed they could achieve - ended in catastrophy as they slipped 5-0 behind.

Giants knew they were on for their 12 straight win after they went two up inside seven minutes, the goals from Jeff Mason, before Josh Prudden added a third at 18.20. It became mission impossible six minutes later minutes later when Brandon Benedict and Prudden rubbed in Giants’ superiority.

A powerplay goal from player/coach Simon and a strike from Rod Sarich persuaded Giants to shut up shop rather than extend the lead.

Sheffield will have to give a totally different account of themselves when they host Giants on Wednesday.