MATCH REPORT: Sheffield Steelers 3 Hull 0

Thwarted: Ashley Tait misses from close-range.  Picture: Rik Rayner
Thwarted: Ashley Tait misses from close-range. Picture: Rik Rayner
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STEELERS kept up their rigorous pursuit of a place at the top of the league last night.

In a dominating, but sometimes nervous performance they celebrated a triple blessing: a win, a record shut-out collection for goalie Ervins Mutukovs and all three goals scored by Brits.

Top of the league Cardiff Devils beat Nottingham Panthers 6-5 so Ben Simon’s Steelers remain three points behind in second place, with a game in hand.

Steelers rolled four lines with 11 forwards, Rob Globke double shifting at centre, and they had the two best early chances, Rob Dowd forcing a save after just 17 seconds and Ashley Tait blazing over from a yard outside the crease.

Neil Clark fanned on another chance and Tom Squires saw yet another opportunity go begging.

But Hull are a much improved side and Canadian wing Andrew Coburn would have scored if Mustukov hadn’t been on his toes.

The breakthrough came at 13;06, man of the match Jason Hewitt flicking the puck high past Christian Boucher from an acute angle.

There was an unusual fracas involving two normally urbane Steelers forwards in the 18th minute. Ashley Tait sought retribution for a charge to his back on the boards by cross-checking Aivars Gaisis.

The 6ft 2ins Latvian d-man reacted with another unpleasant challenge to Tait’s back, which prompted the considerably smaller Joey Talbot to weigh in with with a clip round the perpetrator’s ear.

Jerramie Domish and Clark engineered a smart offensive move as Steelers sought to up the ante in the middle session.

Influential Globke’s surge through centre ice was almost complimented with a goal and Squires was similarly denied on two occasions.

But the hosts didn’t make the most of their territorial advantage and that encouraged sporadic raids by Stingrays and they almost profitted when Campbell gave the puck away forcing a turnover.

And when Jonathan Phillips set up Globke, almost hanging over the goal line, and the puck stayed out, you wondered if over-elaboration could be the home side’s undoing.

There was a hint of desperation for Steelers at the start of the last period, Globke firing over with the goal at his mercy. But at 46;12, the nerves were settled with a crisply taken goal from Hewitt.

Clark hit the post but there was still some obvious frustration - a subdued Jeff Legue skating into Clark and then smashing his stick into the bench wall. But Legue recovered his composure to set up an empty goal for Squires at the death.