Another road trip disappointment for Steelers: Belfast Giants 5 Sheffield 1
They achieved qualification on Saturday with a respectable home win over Milton Keynes Lightning. But then, as so often is the case, finished the weekend on a low. They were beaten 5-1 at Belfast.
Don't be surprised: Sheffield have won their last five home but and lost their last five away. They are consistently inconsistent.
In Sunday’s penultimate league game of the season, both sides created early opportunities with Giants' top scorer Darcy Murphy testing Jackson Whistle and John Armstrong almost executing an Eric Neiley pass.Jordan Owens, revelling in his new role as a defenceman, put in some intelligent work at the back end.
But after 12 minutes it all started to go wrong. Steelers conceded with Patrick Dwyer weaving his way between markers to score.
Sheffield had lost their two previous games by a single goal at the SSE Arena. And that was the margin they trailed at the first interval.
But Belfast doubled their lead four minutes into the middle session, American winger Jordan Smotherman scoring.
Steelers may have had a comfortable 5-1 win over MKL on Saturday. Significantly, though, Giants had enjoyed a night off...and their extra freshness showed.
The visitors lost energy in defending penalty kills. And they couldn't cash in when Paul Swindlehurst took a slashing minor and Jonathan Ferland went for a face-off violation.
The misfiring proved costly as Smotherman suddenly turned provider, with Riley springing from the box to make it 3-0, 43 seconds before the end of the period.
Giants were on their way to making it 16 straight home wins.
Whatever message Barrasso delivered to his team went unrewarded: Giants' Baun made it 4-0, with Smotherman again involved, at 41:26. Colin Shields added a fifth eight minutes later.
The flow reversed unexpectedly when Ryan Martinelli scored against his old team on a short-handed play. That, at least, denied the shut out.