Sheffield Steelers 5 Belfast Giants 1 - Five-star show from Thompson's men
Ervins Mustukovs was again robbed of his first shut out of the season, but could at least celebrate a thumping 5-1 win over Belfast Giants.
Steelers’ Latvian goaltender conceded a last-second goal to Nottingham Panthers in an 8-1 mauling a week ago and was beaten by a Colin Shields effort with two minutes left on Sunday night.
His big pads and ever-ready glove proved insurmountable for 57 minutes before Shields struck - although Belfast were their own worst enemies earlier with some howling misses.
Steelers, who had dropped two league places into fourth after Friday’s defeat at home to Cardiff Devils, survived a number of turnovers as Belfast, arriving on the back of four wins but without Adam Keefe, began brightly. But the Irish couldn’t capitalise with James Desmaris fanning on a two-on-one breakaway and Colin Shields’ full blooded effort saved by Mustukovs.
The game’s first Power Play saw Steelers take the lead, Jesse Schultz’s relatively-tame effort touched past Stephen Murphy by Mathieu Roy. at 12:00.
The strike triggered more offensive energy from Sheffield and they were unfortunate not to take further advantage in the first period.
A Belfast equaliser looked on the cards, they pressed, hit the post twice and had a goal washed out after James Desmarais exposed holes in the home defence. A brave defensive performance led by shot-blocker Markus Nilsson continued to frustrate them until Sheffield went further ahead with a cracking solo goal.
Levi Nelson cycled at the top of the offensive zone, weighed up a pass to Christoffer Bjorkulnd but opted instead to unleash a piledriver high into the net.
A long 5-on-3 Power Play brought a third goal, Ben O’Connor ensuring his side wouldn’t follow Friday’s example when they started conceding goals while two-up (36:56).
David Rutherford was stretchered off the ice and hospitalised with a neck injury, which cut short the second session.
Belfast wasted some glorious opportunities - Michael Forney and Steve Saviano the men most wasteful.
Roy picked up his third point of the night by setting up linemate Jesse Schultz and O’Connor deepened Giants’ misery with the fifth.
And so Steelers ended the weekend on a high - they have won three out of their last five games and a consistent streak is needed now as they go after league leaders Cardiff.
On Wednesday, though, they are in Challenge Cup action at Edinburgh Capitals.
After the game, coach Paul Thompson said he hopes Rutherford would make a full recovery - there are suggestions he could not feel his arms or legs after being hurt. But Thompson criticised Rutherford for making a “blindside” hit on Yared Hagos.
Sunday 20th November
Cardiff Devils 4 Braehead Clan 3
Edinburgh Capitals 8 Coventry Blaze 2
Manchester Storm 3 Fife Flyers 0
Sheffield Steelers 5 Belfast Giants 1
Continental Cup 3rd Round – Group D (Odense, Denmark)
HC Donbass (UKR) 3 Nottingham Panthers 1
Wednesday 23rd November
Challenge Cup 1/4 Final 1st leg
Edinburgh Capitals v Sheffield Steelers – 7.00pm
Friday 25th November
Nottingham Panthers v Belfast Giants – 7.30pm
Saturday 26th November
Coventry Blaze v Cardiff Devils 7.00pm
Fife Flyers v Braehead Clan – 7.15pm
Manchester Storm v Belfast Giants – 7.00pm
Challenge Cup 1/4 Final 2nd leg
Sheffield Steelers v Edinburgh Capitals – 7.00pm
(at ice Sheffield)
Sunday 27th November
Cardiff Devils v Sheffield Steelers – 6.00pm
Dundee Stars v Manchester Storm – 6.30pm
Edinburgh Capitals v Braehead Clan – 6.00pm
Nottingham Panthers v Fife Flyers 4.00pm