Victory over Scots, but now for the little matter of the Irish

Colt King Sheffield Steelers v Edinburgh Capitals 26/2/12
Colt King Sheffield Steelers v Edinburgh Capitals 26/2/12
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Steelers 7 Edinburgh 0 (Sunday)

Fife Flyers 3 Steelers 5 (Saturday)

STOP me if you think you have read this before.

This time last week, we discussed the importance a would-be championship team beating their other main title contenders, not just the league table’s bottom-half minnows.

Then, Steelers had just disposed of Dundee Stars and were on their way to a routine victory over basement side Fife Flyers...sandwiching a depressing defeat to third place Nottingham Panthers.

Now, fast forward to the weekend just gone.

Steelers beat Fife again on Saturday (despite trailing twice) and, last night, absolutely hammered next to bottom Edinburgh Capitals.

Putting the clinical execution of Edinburgh to one side, for the moment, the chase for the title was undoubtedly slowed up with Friday night’s defeat at fifth-place Braehead Clan.

Looking dispassionately at the general picture, second-spot Steelers have lost six times, in all, to Nottingham Panthers this season, a statistic that has undermined League and Challenge Cup progress, team morale and fan enjoyment in one particularly foul swoop.

Ofcourse, the beating of the likes of Fife and Edinburgh harvest useful points, but only serves to pose the question “What might have been?” had they succeeded against Panthers more frequently over the campaign.

Steelers’ coach Ryan Finnerty is at pains to point out that little has changed, after the three results, over last Friday, Saturday and yesterday.

He says that his side needs to win at least one of the two road games in Belfast as well as beating them in the remaining game in Sheffield.

Can that happen? Possibly. Stranger things have.

So far Sheffield have beaten them twice by one-goal, even if they were outclassed 4-2 in their meeting, earlier this month.

Last night, with Geoff Woolhouse in nets and all fit import skaters playing, Steelers were in no mood for anything other than a shut out against Edinburgh.

Colt King effectively scored the winner after just 11 minutes when he finished off a Jeff Legue-Mike Ramsay move.

Wingers Tom Squires and Neil Clark combined to hand player coach Ryan Finnerty the second of the evening.

And defenceman Chad Huttel got in the act with a goal on 28 minutes.

Just before the end of the second, in which Steelers outshot their visitors 17-9, a rampant Ramsay, who had enjoyed assists on two earlier goals, struck home the fourth.

The third period reaffirmed the destruction of the Caps.

Another Arena d-man, Steve Birnstill roamed forward to score, followed more for Finnerty and Legue.

And so Edinburgh, who have been beaten 8-0 and 9-0 by Nottingham, the latter result last Sunday, faced another long journey home.

But will the path ahead for Sheffield be illuminated by the glint of silverware?

Only if they start to beat the top team left ahead of them, Belfast Giants. Those three games are going to be some contest.

On Saturday Steelers went behind on 22 minutes to Danny Stewart’s marker.

The Scots had indeed got off to a flyer with Czech winger Frantisek Bakrlik making it 2-0 at 28.47.Jason Hewitt and Luke Fulghum scored twice in two minutes but Stewart gave the Jocks a lead going into the third.

Fulghum levelled for a second time before, at 51.56, King put the visitors in front for the first time. Flyers pulled their goaltender and Legue - likely to sign a new deal with the club today- fired an empty netter at 59.23.