Sheffield Steelers 6-2 Cardiff Devils: Astonishing victory for Paul Thompson's cup hunters
Steelers will take a sensational four-goal lead to south Wales after a vibrant Challenge Cup semi final first leg at iceSheffield.
The 6-2 victory was Sheffield's 100th win in all competitions over the champions - and it was certainly asignificant one.Hot on the heels of an 8-0 mauling of Belfast Giants, Steelers are playing brash, confident and disciplined hockey.You can never count a quality team like Devils out, but they will need to be in incredible form to stop Sheffieldgoing through to the final in their own barn.Cardiff's last trip to iceSheffield was more than two years ago.And they looked lost for large parts of the game.In the opening 65 seconds, they invited efforts on their goal from Matt Marquardt, Levi Nelson and Jonas Westerling.But the first Power Play of the game almost went their way and Joey Martin hit the crossbar. Yet on the same play, Tim Wallace swept in from the left, faked to pass and then lashed home near post at 5;23.Just 63 seconds later, Miika Franssila played a short pass inside to defensive partner Scott Aarsson, who bangedhome first time.Devils were granted their second PP and benefitted with Matt Pope shooting low through traffic for 2-1 (7.31.)A Franssila give-away almost saw Steelers lose the lead.But Mathieu Roy, without a goal against Cardiff this year, had a shot parried and seconds later the puck fell toBen O'Connor, whose deflected strike zipped in for 3-1 at 15;54.Sheffield, who iced d-man Zack Fitzgerald up front, got their noses further ahead on the Power Play, Roy openinghis account with a back-hander, at 21;25.Ervins Mustukovs got something on the puck when Jake Morissette looked odds-on to swcore from close range - and Steelers shot blocking verged on the extraordinary.Human oak tree Joonas Ronnberg had some agonisingly long shifts as they kept Devils at bay.Tyson Strachan's classy contributions threatened to undo Steelers' three goal advantage, as Cardiff swept forwards in number.Sheffield's power play almost delivered a fifth, with Andreas Jamtin's heavy shot twice in action.But in even play they lit the iceSheffield board up again, Marquardt sweeping up the ice and finishing a Nelsonmove.Steelers had more defending to do at the start of the last session, with Westerling taking a slashing call.But they stepped around that obstacle and increased the lead to a jaw-dropping 6-1, Nelson's goal passing theofficials' video review.Cardiff are league champions for a reason and they brought one back when Joey Haddad scored short handed and unassisted at 54:47.The two-leg winner will meet either Nottingham Panthers or Belfast Giants in the final.