Season over as Steelers slump to Hull battlers

Lee Esders Sheffield Steelers v Hull Stingrays 1/4/12
Lee Esders Sheffield Steelers v Hull Stingrays 1/4/12
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Sheffield Steelers 2 Hull Stingrays 5 (Sunday)

Stingrays 2 Steelers 2 (Saturday)

THE KING is dead - and so is Steelers’ season.

A week after the controversial decision to axe Colt King, Sheffield bombed out of the Play-offs, outworked by a humble Hull side that had a belief to match a quite extraordinary work ethic.

Hull defended like their lives depended on it, they had a calmness under pressure, a hat-trick star in ex Steeler Derek Campbell and a game winner in goalie Christian Boucher.

Coach Ryan Finnerty, playing his last game before retiring from playing duties, now has all Summer to put a more cohesive and competitive squad together.

Not making the Play-off finals is unacceptable - and he’ll have made that point at the end of this game.

Last night had started well.

A-high check on Jeff Legue by captain Kurtis Dulle gave Sheffield their first Power Play. Hull gave the indispensible Legue an ocean of room and he smashed home for 1-0 at 3;15.

Martin Ondrej and Dominic Osman both shot wide before a cracking finish by Jason Silverthorn who had pierced the heart of the home defence.

But emotions took over.

Jason Hewitt, enraged at a high hit, was sent to the box for retaliating.

The same went for Legue who took exception to being boarded and threw a punch at Jereme Tendler - giving Hull a 5-on-3 advantage.

Steelers were further depleted when Matt Stephenson’s stick snapped and Campbell gave Hull the lead for the first time over the weekend.

Dulle was in the box again at 23;36 encouraging Steeler to throw bodies into the crease and setting up an ecstatic Jason Hewitt to level at 2-2.

Rod Sarich had two efforts as the momentum swung towards the iceSheffield side, although Hull looked twice the team they had shown in league combat and despite the pressure on their zone, they sneaked out of their defensive shell and popped in a third goal at 36;01, Campbell’s second.

Hull faced a 5-on-3 penalty kill but Boucher performed heroics and the visitors further showed their feisty attitude with a series of confrontations after the second hooter.

They looked like a team that would work to the last breath for that final play off place.

Sheffield needed to up their intensity, yet DeCaro had to make a difficult save through traffic at the start of the third after Steve Birnstill’s clearance was intercepted.

Then: disaster. Hull’s Matt Davies threw in a cross from the right flank and it was knocked into his own net by Hewitt - an agonising body blow.

Hull then harried, blocked, hit, and threw themselves into every puck and move to keep the orange shirts out.

With six minutes left Campbell nipped in between Mark Thomas and DeCaro for his hat-trick. The season was over.

n On Saturday, there was little to chose between the Yorkshire rivals, Steelers being outshot by a single effort, 33-34.

Skipper Jonathan Phillips despatched the opener but Osman made sure the middle period was level.

Neil Clark celebrated his return to the left wing with what looked like the winner at 50.53. But Steelers could only hold on to the lead for two minutes, Campbell equalising.