Legue strike stuns leaders

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STEELERS left it excruciatingly late but still made ground on Elite League leaders Belfast Giants last night.

They equalised with 42 seconds left and then won in overtime in this absorbing encounter.

The Irish had started the evening eight points clear of the third-placed Steelers - but Ryan Finnerty’s side have six games in hand.

Last night’s win had looked unlikely until the last-gasp moments, mainly because of Belfast’s superb forecheck.

The visitors have got to the league’s summit through sheer talent and physical play and they looked a class act as they dominated the early stages.

Goalie John DeCaro had to make several early stops with Jon Pelle buzzing around in Sheffield’s defensive zone.

Debutant d-man Francis Trudel, straight off the plane from north America, had an uncomfortable start; he was targeted for some hefty physical challenges and his split second decision-making was confused. He was on the ice when Pelle opened the scoring, neatly slotting the puck inside the near post at 12;23.

Sheffield only managed concerted raids during consecutive power plays yet had few clear sights of the net.

The middle session was frantic with Sheffield desperately trying to loosen the defensive hand-cuffs placed on them by a super-efficient Giants’ defence; they made it impossible for Steelers to engineer quality places.

Both Colt King and Jason Hewitt found some room for shots but goaltender Stephen Murphy was up to the task.

Luke Fulghum, in his third outing for Steelers showed flashes of brilliance, Trudel had three point shots blocked and d-man Steve Birnstill’s charges down the ice raised the stakes, but Giants escaped the session with their lead intact.

Giants looked like their tactical nous would suffocate Sheffield’s offence, until Ashley Tait’s tapped home in the last minute of regular time.

And for the first time all night, Jeff Legue, who appeared to be in an offside position, sneaked clear to score the winner in overtime.