Steelers see off Giants to make it four in a row
You have to go back to the beginning of October to find a sequence featuring four consecutive Sheffield Steelers wins.
But Paul Thompson’s search for that elusive chain of consistency finally struck gold again last night.
After an exhausting and successful trip to Fife, Sheffield returned to beat Belfast, largely due to the excellence of Marek Pinc in goal.
Ironically, Pinc’s best performance for the club could be his last, or one of his last, with Tyler Plante close to a return.
But if Steelers are to retain the Elite League trophy, he can now truthfully say he played his part.
Last night, there was little between the sides.
Pinc was the first to show off his skills after Craig Peacock burned past Jace Coyle down Steelers’ right flank and fired in a shot at 3;23.
A minute later Jeff Legue seized on a half chance and leathered a shot parried by Stephen Murphy.
Fredrik Verberg, with his low distinctive skating style, was Sheffield’s most creative forward.
And it was his linemates who engineered the first goal at 13;40.
Rob Dowd weaved down the left wing, firing on to Murphy, and then stroking the rebound across the crease to Levi Nelson whg tapped home at the far post.
Quality shots were delivered at both ends, Michael Forney being caught by Pinc and Cullen Eddy’s slapshot denting Murphy’s blocker.
Two former team-mates that you’d never think you’d see fight - Ben O’Connor and Michael Forney - ended the first period in the sin bin after a dust-up.
Both goaltenders reigned supreme in a goalless middle section in which Giants showed their willingness to work hard and Sheffield their’s to compete just as much.
Giants twice tried route one: Kris Beech charging through the middle before being stopped by a ref’s whistle and then Mike Radja doing the same and forcing a save.
It was fast and furious and mainly fair at this point, with just one penalty with Matt Nickerson high-sticking Russ Moyer.
Mathieu Roy, playing his 100th EIHL game, saw his stinging drive held by Murphy but Giants threatened to level twice through Mike Wilson.
Adam Keefe, later to drop Roy in a totally unacceptable attack off the puck, was desperate to drive his team back in the game.
And with Steelers tiring - they returned from Fife at 6.30am on Sunday - Giants won Face Off possession and Beech fired past Pinc.
Cullen Eddy scored an empty netter to kill off the game and secure a four-point weekend.
*On Saturday, the home grown players split the goals with the imports as Steelers won 4-1 in their first trip of the year to Fife flyers 4-1.
Brits Dowd and O’Connor got the visitors off the mark, before Canadians Colton Fretter and Roy got their shots through on net .
While Sheffield initially went behind to a goal from forward Jeff Lee, the team’s Power Play clicked and they deserved the points.
Roy’s goal was an interesting one: with Steelers defending a 3-1 advantage into the final minute, Fife pulled goalie David Brown.
But as he skated towards the bench he prevented a scoring chance from the French Canadian so referee Neil Wilson awarded an empty net goal.
The team had presented coach Paul Thompson with two of his main requirements: an efficient, defence-minded road game and excellence from his special teams.
“”I was delighted how we minimised scoring chances against us and just thought we were solid all night” said Thompson.
Steelers have another Scotland-to-England travel mission to overcome next weekend.
They visit Braehead Clan on Saturday, with a home game the following night against Coventry Blaze.