Sheffield Steelers star backed by Aaron Fox after mixed weekend against Belfast Giants

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Aaron Fox has come out in full support of Matt Petgrave after a mixed weekend for his star defenceman and the team overall.

Sheffield Steelers beat Belfast Giants 2-1 on Saturday, but then slipped up 3-2 to them the following night.

In the first match, Petgrave was accused of faking a high stick on him, resulting in a power play from which Steelers scored.

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He was branded a cheat by visiting fans and given a hard time by numerous Giants' players.

After 14 minutes of Sunday's game, Petgrave was handed a diving penalty, which Belfast supporters rapturously approved of.

Giants forward Colby McAuley made a gesture to ridicule Petgrave, in the penalty box.

Sheffield coach Fox acknowledged Saturday's incident, which had led to the game-winning goal for Brett Neumann on the power play, possibly influenced events on ice 24 hours later.

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Matt Petgrave has been backed by Sheffield Steelers coach Aaron Fox. Picture: Dean WoolleyMatt Petgrave has been backed by Sheffield Steelers coach Aaron Fox. Picture: Dean Woolley
Matt Petgrave has been backed by Sheffield Steelers coach Aaron Fox. Picture: Dean Woolley

Referring to the moment Petgrave was handed an embellishment call on Sunday, he said: "It is very possible that social media or whatever you want to call it from last night (Sat) affected that call tonight (Sun) I don't really know that for sure.

"I thought Matt handled it quite well, he is an emotional player, he wears his heart on his sleeve, his work rate and work effort are through the roof and I am glad he is on our team."

Overall, Steelers' epic weekend struggle with Belfast posed more questions than answers.

Giants were undermanned yet brought most of the energy and power in the first half of the game.

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Steelers were virtually at full strength, only Scott Allen would have been expected to have been in the line-up and he has a lower-body issue.

Fox said: "It was pretty disappointing.

"Belfast came out the more desperate hockey team at the start of the game. They outworked, they out-competed us in that first 20.

"In saying that we didn't give them much in that first 20, but four minutes of that hockey game cost us," he said referring to goals on either side of the first interval.

After going 3-0 down Sheffield "woke up and played very good hockey and had them on their heels for the rest of the night" said Fox.

"But you have got to be ready to play 60 minutes.

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"They played wounded, they are a light hockey team right now, and you could just tell they had that extra sense of desperation."

Asked what accounted for Sheffield's dip in effort, he replied: "I don't know, I don't think there is an answer I have for that right now" although he went on to mention the possibility of complacency.

The weekend results meant Steelers remained in second place but they lost the chance to nibble into Guildford Flames' lead at the top of the EIHL table.

Flames are currently six points clear having played two more games than Steelers.