Sheffield Steelers are party poopers at Cardiff Devils
Sheffield Steelers turned party poopers to spoil Cardiff Devils' celebration night.
Paul Thompson’s men were supposed to be the sacrificial lamb in a night the fans and players could applaud each other for a second consecutive Welsh title.
But Steelers turned in a morale-boosting 4-3 win in south Wales.
It might seem a hollow victory, given the fact Devils are rightful champions again.
But it will mean a lot to Steelers who slipped up at home on Saturday against Nottingham Panthers and need some fresh confidence to guide them towards the Play Offs.
Steelers, who had injured duo Ervins Mustukovs and Davey Phillips out of the line-up, had back-up netminder Brad Day between the pipes.
Cardiff fans were in party mode after securing a back-to-back championship triumph.
But the mood was flattened slightly inside nine minutes when Steelers scored.
A Steelers counter-attack saw a rebound off goalie Ben Bowns, Andreas Valdix firing it over the line, his first goal in 11 games. Mathieu Roy assisted.
There was a two-minute 4-on-4 spell with Bryce Reddick (roughing) and Joonas Ronnberg (holding) in the box at 10:19 but neither side could maximise the extra space.
But Sheffield were revelling in the challenge in the champions’ lair and Valdix added his second at 13;23, with Robert Dowd and Mark Matheson involved in the build-up.
It was the first time Valdix has scored twice in a game this season.
The omens looked bright as Sheffield were handed a 5-on-3 powerplay and they made it count as a pass from Jonas Westerling bounced off a Cardiff player for 3-0 at 23:45.
Devils grabbed a finger-hold in the game at the half-way point, when Matt Pope punished a rebound off Day to open their account.
Steelers were further under the cosh when Zack Fitzgerald received four minutes for roughing and abuse of officials at 34:16.
Yet they almost sneaked another, short-handed, with Eric Neiley striking the post.
Steelers have only lost three consecutive games once this year, and that included two Continental Cup games in Belarus, in January.
And when the second period break arrived, they looked like they would not suffer a third straight loss, having outshot their hosts 31-16.
Dowd needed a break from the hurly-burly when he suffered a heavy bang into the boards in the 44th minute.
And Steelers had to show some resolve when Colton Fretter was sidelined for slashing.
But at 49;41, Steelers sprung a leak as Layne Ulmer crashed the puck past Day’s blocker for 2-3.
Devils poured forward - but left the back door open and conceded 55 seconds later with Dowd scoring his third of the weekend.
Yet the goals kept coming: a turnover gifted the home side a Justin Faryna goal, to make it 4-3, still in Steelers’ favour.
Devils called a timeout at 59:33 - but this was one match that was not going to go their way.