Sheffield Steelers v Cardiff Devils: Steelers hammered 5-0 in worst display of season so far
Steelers put in the worst performance of the season as they were shut out 5-0 by title rivals Cardiff Devils.
The Welsh out-witted Sheffield for much of the early part of the game and then sat back to comfortably absorb the pressure.
They'd come with a game-plan to stifle Sheffield and outmaneuver them with clever, simple plays. And it worked.
It was easily the biggest defeat Steelers' campaign, so far and ended a six-match winning streak in both cup and league
You would have thought the home side, who had gone into the game five points clear at the top of the table, would have been brimming with confidence.
But the first period was disastrous, their worst spell of play for some time.
When they had the puck, the 7,637 Arena crowd witnessed a litany of misplaced passes and when they didn't have it, spaces were left open for their rivals to exploit.
Cardiff had endured a gruelling, 4-3 shoot-out win over Guildford Flames the night before - a match they'd trailed 0-2 and 1-3 in.
Yet they dictated the game, from their fast forecheck to their ruthlessness in front of goal.
After just three minutes, they took the lead with a goal that represented their ability to get forward quickly.
Brandon McNally passed cleanly for Sam Duggan to tap home.
Devils had recently parted company with ex Steelers' centreman Andreas Valdix - but they obviously didn't need his contribution.
Tanner Eberle was left chasing back after a move broke down and he had a grandstand view of Justin Crandall making it 0-2.
By the 12th minute, Cole Sanford finished off another nice move, which appeared to signal the end of Rok Stojanovic's night.
Few people could have seen this coming: Stojanovic had conceded just once in the previous two matches.
Sheffield are not used to being this far behind, so the interval coach's talk must have been an interesting one.
The side improved, but the trouble was Cardiff just wouldn't take their foot off the gas.
With Eberle called for hooking, Matt Register fired in a monster shot from the left point which was deflected past Brust for 4-0.
Agitator Brendan Connolly tried to disrupt Mac Carruth's concentration, but it just spurred the goalie on to stop a DeLuca breakaway.
Sheffield did create chances, a fine solo effort from Justin Hodgman went unrewarded and Robert Dowd effort was blockered clear by Carruth.
Instead, Devils added a fifth through Cole Sanford.
With Keaton Ellerby thrown out the game for a check-from-behind, the game was effectively over.
There was a surprise in store at the start of the third frame, when Stojanovic re-appeared in goal, instead of Brust.
What didn't change was Devils' determination to block Sheffield's passing lanes and intercept their increasingly-desperate passes and plays.
Steelers had shut out two teams this month, now they had that ignominy heaped on them.
Steelers' Saturday 3-1 win at Nottingham Panthers, in a Challenge Cup group they'd long since qualified from, demonstrated a willingness to compete even when little other than local pride is at stake.
A power play goal from Dowd and others from Matias Sointu and Martin Látal did the damage.