Guildford Flames 6-5 Sheffield Steelers: Late fight back not enough as mission to win league suffers setback
Steelers' mission to win the Elite League - plain sailing for the past few weeks - has sprung a leak.
They lost both weekend matches, conceding 11 goals.
Sunday saw them fight back from 3-5 down to 5-5, but it was not enough. They lost to a goal with three minutes left.
Sheffield, outplayed by Nottingham Panthers on Saturday, grabbed the early initiative in Surrey.
With Calle Ackered off for hooking, Steelers' Power Play, in dreadful shape the night before, clicked with Marek Troncinsky finding the top corner.
The burly defencemen then hit the post - but trouble lay in store at the other end, in the shape of two goals in 155 seconds.
First Joshua Waller equalised and when Troncinsky was binned Jesse Craige shot past an unsighted Tomas Duba.
Discipline problems raised their head with Nikolay Lemtyguov and Brendan Connolly penalised and Ben O'Connor thrown out for cross-checking.
Guildford cashed in with a third on the PP, through Ian Watters.
Number four arrived at 25:52, with Braylon Shmyr winning a battle of wills with Tomas Duba.
Sheffield launched a fight-back with Lemtyguov banging home at 28:10 and John Armstrong converting from close range, his third point of the evening.
But with 40 seconds before the second period break, the mountain became steeper for Steelers when John Dumbar made it 5-3.
With 11 minutes remaining, Marco Vallerand and Michael Davies tied things up at 5-5.
Yet Flames took the honours with Watters' second of the night.
*Steelers' boss Aaron Fox says the international break will give him and his players time to clear their heads.
"We have played a lot of hockey here, the pressure, the competitiveness, of the games, this time of year when you are in the title race it's non-stop.
"The next game is the biggest game of the year, at this point, so it will be good for them to refresh and get away.”
Of the February 15 transfer deadline date, Fox said: "We will see. There is not a lot out there right now, there is potentially an opportunity for us to bring in a goalie just in case anything were to happen to 'Dubes' after the deadline."
The coach suggested he wouldn't be direct competition for Duba but would be around should he be needed.
"If the right fit is out there, we'll look into it."