Hammer blow for Sheffield’s recovery: Cardiff Devils 7-3 Steelers
Coach Tom Barrasso admires Cardiff Devils more than any other opponent in the EIHL.
And his predecessor Paul Thompson, at Sheffield Steelers, spent all last Summer trying to get the team near their lofty level.
Sunday night in Wales proved their respect remains well-placed and the team the coaches served at different times still has one hell of a journey to make, to match them.
Andrew Lord inflicted his fourth loss over Sheffield by an impressive 7-3.
At least, Barrasso's boys were two goals to the good after 24 minutes and holding the champions half way through the match.
It is some, small degree of evidence, perhaps, that Sheffield have qualities that will see them make the Play Offs - but winning that tournament certainly seems a stretch to all but the most ardent fan.
Sheffield had gone into Sunday's contest on the back of an enjoyable 3-2 win over Guildford Flames, previously a bogey team. With such a difficult trip to make at Cardiff, the day after, it was a must-win and they’d managed it well.
Devils, however, had much to prove to themselves after falling into a rare, two-match losing streak, being beaten by Nottingham Panthers and then Manchester Storm.
Steelers, likely to sign 29-year-old Canadian trialist Carsen Chubak as a back-up goalie this week, gave themselves a hill to climb at the sold-out Ice Arena Wales, taking a too-many-men penalty and then conceding a goal.
Charles Linglet put the Welsh ahead at 9:19 - but they'd hold on to it for just 80 seconds.
Josh Pitt, who has had a lean time in front of goal in the last half dozen games, found his touch to tie the game 1-1, shooting through Ben Bowns' legs, after supply work from Tanner Eberle and Mark Matheson.
Cardiff were further rocked by a go-ahead goal from Ben O'Connor; his blue line chance arriving via forwards John Armstrong and Eric Neiley.
The interval provided Devils a chance to plot an immediate comeback, but in the short-term it turned out to be the reverse: they went further behind when Pitt played a part in Evan McGrath's 3-1 strike (24;06.)
But Davey Phillips' high sticking infraction saw them execute on the power play, Linglet totting up his second of the evening.
It was a tide-turning moment.
James Livingston' wrist shot made the home momentum count, and it was 3-3 at the mid-way point.
Linglet, a trouble-maker all night for Steelers, served a two minute minor and then came out of the box to serve up a 4-3 go-ahead goal for Mike Hedden at 35;13.
The fourth Cardiff goal of the period came, predictably, from talisman Joey Martin and suddenly Sheffield were two behind for the first time.
Sean Bentivoglio joined the party and got on the scoresheet with the final period two minutes old - and Devils had become third team to whack six past Sheffield since January 12.
Toms Rutkis breezed in a seventh at 58;08 to equal the amount Cardiff scored in the 7-1 win against Sheffield in October.
It was another night to forget for Sheffield, who must be hoping that Robert Dowd and Josh McFadden can return to fitness in record time.