Sheffield Steelers 2 Dundee Stars 5: Title hopes hit on off night for Fox’s men
Sheffield Steelers' league title aspirations took a Storm Dennis-sized battering as they were outplayed 2-5 by second-from-bottom Dundee Stars.
Aaron Fox's side were lacking in bite up front and surprisingly easy to punish in their own zone.
In the middle of the ice, they lost the puck time after time.
It was the South Yorkshire club's second consecutive home defeat.
Steelers had Josef Hrabal and Anthony DeLuca back on the roster, with Jonas Liwing and James Bettauer healthy scratches.
The suspended Ben O'Connor joined injured Robert Dowd on the sidelines - O'Connor's blue line slot going to Cole Shudra.
Defensively, Steelers gave up far too many chances in the first period.
Dundee's top points scorer Kevin Dufour hit the post and wasted a chance on a breakaway as home goalie Tomas Duba was forced to parry too many goal bound shots.
A power play goal for Marco Vallerand - thrashed in first time with unerring precision from the right hand circle at 6:24 - opened the scoring and Tanner Eberle could have had another on a breakaway. DeLuca went just wide of the angle of post and bar.
But then it started to go wrong.
Dufour hit the same post again and his side earned an equaliser at 15:56, as Dundee cleverly kept the puck in the home defensive zone allowing Matt Marquardt to rifle in, unassisted.
Steelers, playing in a clashing outfit of pink Valentine shirts and their normal orange helmets, endured a horrible 0-3 middle period.
Offensively they were too elaborate. Defensively they were weak and seemingly easy to put under pressure by Dunbdee's forecheckers.
Sheffield were porous down their right flank as Egils Kalns flicked in, top shelf.
Then they yielded a shorthanded goal: Anthony Beauregard netting with two seconds left of their kill.
Duba foiled Brett Stovin and Dufour but could do nothing for the Scots' power play fourth, backhanded in by Matthew Carter.
Stars had the three best goal-chances at the start of the third as seasoned Steeler professionals continued losing possession in key areas.
The Dundee defensive strategy was to throw five worker bees in front of goalie Alex Leclerc - and it worked.
You couldn't help wondering why the Scots were at the bottom of the end of the league, as Colton Kroeker stroked in their fifth on a five-on-three power play.
And to be blunt - Sheffield looked anything like a top of the league team.
DeLuca summed up the night when he failed to bury penalty shot.
Marek Troncinsky at least swept home a late goal, but it was too little too late.