Sheffield Steelers v Belfast Giants. Win for visitors takes them step closer to EIHL title

Steelers must today try and avoid the ignominy of seeing Belfast Giants win the league on Sheffield ice.

Sunday, 10th April 2022, 11:28 am
Marco Vallerand for Sheffield as they struggled in the first period

A highly professional 3-1 victory at the Arena on Saturday means the Irish go into today's second installment three points ahead of their rivals with three league games remaining.

If Giants win in regulation time tonight they will have amassed 84 points and Steelers could only achieve 83 points from their remaining games.

On the other hand if Sheffield win their three remaining games (two of them against Belfast) they will be champions.

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That will be no small task.

Belfast are oozing with self-belief.

Adam Keefe's team are fast and direct and their skaters supported the man on the puck in transition, repeatedly putting pressure on the home side.

Sheffield coach Aaron Fox said: "We need to up our game obviously. Everything is in our own hands still; you never want to see someone win a trophy in your arena so I expect some push-back and some desperate hockey."

The visiting, title favourites were neat and tidy in their distribution, moving solidly as a unit and had all the hallmarks of champions-elect.

Steelers were left with a mountain to climb after just eight minutes.

Mark Cooper scored their first goal by exploiting a chink between Rok Stojanovic's left arm and the post.

Sheffield had wanted to give away as few penalties as possible and, at that moment, Giants had shown precisely why.

The Irish top line then illustrated why they are the most feared in the league, JJ Piccinich executing, assisted by David Goodwin and Scott Conway.

Sheffield's luck was clear for all to see in the 17th minute. Vojtech Polak mishit a shot in the slot and then drew a tripping penalty as Giants countered.

Belfast went into the interval outshooting their hosts by 12 to four and with their tails in the air.

Their control over the play was reflected in a 1-0 winning period in the middle frame, Piccinich winning a battle for the puck outside the crease and planting it home at 28:00.

Sheffield had some chances, Marco Vallerand's sneaky shot being seen all the way by Tyler Beskorowany, Robert Dowd hitting the side netting and Evan Mosey failing on a breakaway.

Giants make few mistakes though and remained focused on their task.

They conceded with Kevin Raine lying injured on the ice, at 43:06, Tanner Eberle finally finding the net.

But they were not going to allow another to get past Beskorowany.

Many of the 7,647 went home wondering if they'd seen the last of their chances of a league title in Sheffield this season.

But it's never over until it's over...