A perfect 10 sees Sheffield Steelers into semi-finals

A scrap on the ice as Sheffield Steelers take on Cardiff Devils in the Challenge Cup. Picture: James AssinderA scrap on the ice as Sheffield Steelers take on Cardiff Devils in the Challenge Cup. Picture: James Assinder
A scrap on the ice as Sheffield Steelers take on Cardiff Devils in the Challenge Cup. Picture: James Assinder
Steelers powered their way through to the Challenge Cup semi-finals with goals, fists...and a healthy away win at Cardiff Devils.

Coach Aaron Fox had promised he wouldn't park the bus having won the first quarter-final leg 5-1 at home.

And his team scored just at many in Wales, as they were victorious 5-3.

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They put behind them the team they beat in the Final in 2020, overcoming an uncomfortable first minute to lead for the rest of the game, which ended with brawls and a sour taste.

That aside the Cup is certainly now a high percentage winnable prize, especially with Nottingham Panthers and Belfast Giants playing each other and Guildford Flames and Coventry Blaze also locked in combat, so two of those four big-hitters will be out shortly.

There was a cracking start to Wednesday's game.

Cardiff, as expected, came out the gate at full pelt and scored after a mere 41 seconds, Joey Martin and Cole Sandford engineering a strike for Trevor Cox.

The goal was checked by video review before being allowed.

But Steelers really had not come to defend.

Brandon McNally hit Ben Bowns' post before his side hit the net twice in as many minutes.

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Niklas Nevalianen chose a heck of a time to score his first goal in 31 appearances for Sheffield, at 3:49.

Man of the match Robert Dowd then set up Martin Latal to put the visitors ahead.

The roles were reversed at 8.13 when Latal broke away and passed to Dowd to give them a 3-1 lead on the night, at Ice Arena Wales.

That signalled the end of the night for Bowns in goal, as coach Brodie Dupont hauled him off in favour of Taran Kozun.

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Matt Petgrave's difficult relationship with the officials continued, with the Steelers' defenceman taking two minor penalties for tripping and interference.

The second call was one too far and Brodie Reid narrowed the Sheffield advantage with a power play goal.

Penalties were served by both sides in a goalless middle session but there were chances for Dowd and Brendon Connolly, the latter returning to the team after Mason Michell succumbed to an illness.

At the second interval, Cardiff had sent in 50 shots, but they were still down on the night and 8-3 trailers on aggregate.

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And their offensive output was rendered meaningless when Brett Neumann lit the lamp at the other end at 45:10 with an accurae low shot across Kozun.

There was no stopping Steelers, with their fourth line making it 5-2 on the night, Brandon Whistle finishing from Connolly and Jonathan Phillips.

To give Devils their due, they continued firing pucks at Matt Greenfield, and Ryan Penny succeeded with another power play marker at 51:35.

But ugly confrontations started to dominate the game with Scott Allen fighting with Josh Batch and Tomáš Pitule taking on Riley Brandt.

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Cardiff were making a statement that they didn't like being beaten.

And the air was full of the scent of sour grapes.

*Steelers' travels continue at the weekend, when they return to regular league action at Glasgow on Saturday and Dundee Stars on Sunday.