Steelers 4 Braehead Clan 3 (Overtime, Sunday)
Coventry Blaze 1 Steelers 3 (Saturday)
Steelers had to dig deep last night to register their third straight win in as many evenings.
Many of the skaters looked exhausted in the last session of normal time and the fact the game went into overtime won’t have pleased them overly, either.
Yet once again, they pulled something special out of the bag, late on, new d-man Francis Trudel scoring a cracker in the extra session.
They’d won ugly...but won nontheless. And Ryan Finnerty’s team - who have five games in hand over leaders Belfast - now have a look of champions about them.
Mike Ramsay had set Steelers on the way in the game’s first shift. He helped clear his defensive zone before popping up on the right to rifle home on 47 seconds.
And at 3;08, he turned provider, setting up Jeff Legue on another breakway goal.
With that two-goal cushion, Sheffield exhuded confidence.
Matt Stephenson was immaculate in his distribution and Legue was a torment for Clan’s rearguard.
If the period had been painful for Clan, it was specifically so for 6ft Canadian winger Kyle Bruce.
He suffered a beating at the hands of Colt King, dislocating his left shoulder as he tried to unwrap his limb from his tangled shirt. King decked him, but had enough good grace to stop the pummelling as he dropped to his knees.
Stephenson blotted his copybook in the middle session. He was sinbinned and his short-handed team-mates conceded. Ryan Campbell’s shot rebounded off John DeCaro and Jim Jorgensen slotted home.
The goal, three minutes into the second sequence, altered the momentum and Clan started to take the initiative.
Jorgensen, an American d-man, tested DeCaro’s past and former Belfast Giant Mike Bayrack wasted two chances, one a clear breakaway. Clan left winger Jordan Krestanovich was also close to levelling.
But that profligacy cost them dear. Ashley Tait’s effort settled nicely for Jonathan Phillips, who notched his second in as many nights.
Finnerty had elected to keep Neil Clark out for the third straight night and a fresh import would have been handy in a third period which saw waves of Braehead attacks.
The Scots got their rewards at 48;20 when the talented Krestanovich skated across Sheffield’s slot and shot low into the net. And it was 3-3 on 55 minutes when Jorgensen bundled the puck over the line.
Then it was overtime and Trudel’s big moment. He came off the bench, had one shot parried and then banged home the winner.
Friday, December 23 is nobody’s idea of a good date for a hockey match in Cardiff.
But the fixture will be a crucial one for Sheffield, thanks to their 3-1 in Coventry, on Saturday.
The victory means they have a chance to get through to the Challenge Cup semi final, as long as they win in Wales.
A draw sees the Welsh through.
Saturday’s win at Coventry showed Sheffield’s superior conditioning and firepower.
Ex-Blaze player Luke Fulghum netted on the powerplay at 25.25 but that was cancelled out by Shea Guthrie two minutes later.
It wasn’t until 55;37 until Mike Ramsay netted with a shorthanded goal and Jonathan Phillips added another three minutes later.