Shefffield Steelers 4 Belfast Giants 1: Are injury-hit Steelers hobbling towards the title?
With 16 games left, are injury-hit Steelers hobbling their way to the title?
They had three players out injured and one serving a ban on Sunday, yet saw off reigning champions Belfast Giants 4-1.
Steelers have their problems but scoring is not one of them; they deserved this win. The first period was odd – and at times bruising.
Belfast’s Bobby Farnham was first to go loco, losing his head on the bench. The normally-placid Jonathan Phillips then displayed his exasperation at Giants’ physical play.
A Davey Phillips’ check put a rival over the board, causing coach Adam Keefe to tumble off his perch.
Michael Davies blew his top in a face-off. Then a high crosscheck by Matt Pelech towards Marek Tronicinsky’s neck saw Pelech chucked out of the game – he left his mark by hurling over an off-ice steel barrier just feet from a security official.
A Troncinsky blast then thudded into Kevin Raine’s shoulder, making everyone inside Sheffield Arena wince.
Oh – and there were three power play goals too! Ben O’Connor’s creativity, starting behind his own net, launched a raid from which Troncinsky scored. Jordan Smotherman equalised, at 8:35.
And on the five-minute power play caused by Pelech’s indiscretion, Tanner Eberle crashed home for 2-1.
Steelers, without injured Josef Hrabal, Anthony DeLuca, Robert Dowd and suspended Brendan Connolly, also hit the post through Davies in the first 20 minutes.
Table-topping Steelers, who had claimed their most significant victory of the season on Saturday at Cardiff Devils, dominated the middle period, as Giants conceded three power plays.
Vallerand had a huge amount of ice time and was instrumental in the only goal of the segment; Davies scoring with a one-timer.
Belfast had enjoyed a 5-2 romp at Glasgow Clan the night before; they needed to find their rhythm. But their indisciplined yielded a 39 second five-on-three penalty to kill, and Smotherman apart, rarely created opportunities.
The game continued at frantic pace, Davies seeing two goal-bound shots blocked and Nikolai Lemtyugov having to shrug off a stick to the face.
An empty netter from James Bettauer put the matter to bed at 58:04.