Sheffield Steelers came through another stern examination of their Elite League title credentials by beating Hull Stingrays last night.
Steelers’ 11th successive win moved them five points clear of Cardiff Devils as they now prepare for Saturday’s home clash with arch enemies Nottingham Panthers.
Stingrays should have taken the lead after just 11 seconds but back-up goaltender Geoff Woolhouse, starting in place of record-breaker Ervins Mustukovs who is away on international duty with Latvia, made a fine save to deny Matti Uusivirta.
But it was Steelers who went ahead in the fifth minute through a neat finish from Tom Squires before Jeff Legue (powerplay) doubled their lead.
Stingrays cut the deficit through Andrew Coburn on the powerplay but Ashley Tait restored Steelers’ two-goal cushion with a top-shelf finish.
However, two goals inside 11 seconds saw Stingrays tie the game with first top scorer Jereme Tendler and then player-coach Sylvain Cloutier netting.
Steelers spent the early part of the second period on the powerplay, including a two-minute five-on-three, but found no way past Stingrays goaltender Christian Boucher.
Legue was then denied by Boucher on a one-on-one before Stingrays themselves were handed a five-on-three powerplay on which they capitalised as Tendler tapped in a Trevor Read blast.
Back came Steelers, though, and two goals within the space of 70 seconds put them back in front with Derek Campbell producing a sublime finish with Neil Clark tapping home from close in.
Steelers then scored from their first shot in the final period with Rod Sarich firing home on the powerplay within 23 seconds of the restart.
A mistake from Jason Silverthorn, with Stingrays on the powerplay, ended up with Legue and Talbot exchanging passes and the latter tapping home in the 48th minute.
Kurtis Dulle missed a good chance to pull a goal back for Stingrays when he fired wide but made no mistake with his next opportunity, firing home after Woolhouse had saved his initial effort.
Good defending and a couple of decent saves from Woolhouse prevented a frantic finale as Steelers claimed the points.