Sheffield Steelers 5
Cardiff Devils 2
Cardiff Devils 4
Sheffield Steelers 5
THE ELITE League championship is now Sheffield Steelers to lose after back-to-back wins over previous favourites Cardiff Devils.
The momentum is certainly with Ben Simon’s leaders after their 10-goal weekend bonanza.
Six wins out of eight - with four games at home - will bring the title home.
Last month, Sheffield seized pole position after Devils’s 22-game winning streak came to an end.
And on the basis of Sheffield’s own winning run and last night’s emphatic victory, well . . . put that champagne on ice.
But it isn’t an easy run-in, Steelers play Belfast Giants twice and Nottingham Panthers away.
Skipper Jonathan Phillips said: “It was a huge weekend win for us. Devils had lost only one game all season at home until Saturday. This was just another hurdle passed. We have got to keep it going. Nothing is certain yet and we have some big games to come. We are not the type of team to suddenly become complacent.”
Coach Simon added: “A lot of guys stepped up this weekend, but the hard work has to continue.”
Unlike Saturday, Devils were quickest out of the blocks last night.
Workaholic Jason Hewitt lost a face off in the left circle and in the scramble, Stuart Macrae hoisted the puck over a stationary Ervins Mustukovs.
But at 7;21 the game was even. Derek Campbell cycled the puck back to Jerramie Domish, whose point shot was helped in the net by Rob Dowd.
Like any match between these two, there were some unsavoury moments.
Brad Voth escaped punishment for a late elbow to Hewitt’s head and Kevin Bolibruck caught Voth with a left hook to the ribs on the ref’s blind side.
Craig Weller piled in with a thunderous hit too - but on his own player, Ryan Finnerty, by mistake.
When the play settled down Rob Globke found a yard of space and planted home Sheffield’s second on 15;44. Devils had three players out of the line up and Sheffield temporarily went one down when Mark Thomas was hit by the puck in the face.
Steelers had three chances to go further ahead but eventually did so after killing a penalty at 35.16.
Jeff Legue returned to the play after a slashing retaliation call - and it took him precisely five seconds to scoot from the penalty box to the net and finish off an intelligent pass from Campbell for 3-1.
Devils needed a big final period but it exploded in their faces on the Power Play. A turnover saw Ashley Tait streak up the ice and pop home the Arena team’s fourth.
Dowd’s second of the night - a shot high into the rigging - put the top hat on a splendid weekend for him personally.
It meant Alex Symonds’ late point shot goal was nothing other than a minor consolation.
On Saturday, a gutsy Steelers side defied a 3-1 deficit at the half-way point - and a hat-trick from American centre Scott Matzka - to pick up their 11th consecutive road win.
Ben Simon scored shorthanded inside the first minute, Matzka levelling before the first interval.
Devils then seemed to take ownership of the game, somewhat fortuitously, with goals from Craig Weller and Matzka. But two minutes from the end of the second period, Dowd’s marker breathed life into the away side.
It was 3-3 in the fourth minute of the third period as Rod Sarich converted with a powerplay goal. At 54.09,
Jeff Legue netted what seemed the winner, but Matzka’s third ensured a home point.
In overtime Mark Thomas’s snapshot flew over Stevie Lyle’s glove to secure the winner.