Sheffield Steelers: No more margin for error in the title race

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It's advantage Belfast Giants in the race for the EIHL League title.
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Bob Westerdale: Importance of Sheffield Steelers’ double header against Belfast ...

They beat Sheffield 5-1 at the SSE Arena on Friday, to open up a four-point gap over second-place Steelers.Aaron Fox has to work out a way to get maximum points tonight at the same venue, or their chances of catching Belfast will be highly improbable. He will need a tighter team-defence and better goaltending.

The coach implied Giants' netminder Tyler Beskorowany's performance had been a huge influence, while his own goaltender Rok Stojanovic had suffered misfortune."Bescko played good, kept them in the game early, we didn't get the saves we needed at times and the game kind of ran away from us" he said.

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Fox lamented the fact that three of five first-period shots had gone into their net."We haven't played great hockey lately; at least I liked our compete tonight," he said, adding he didn't think the scoreline reflected the 60 minutes.

Steelers had indeed suffered early setbacks. Giants had been applying the pressure before David Goodwin's angled shot dribbled through Stojanovic's pads from the left circle at 9:27.Three minutes later Mark Cooper made it 2-0 for the home side as he re-directed Sam Ruopp's unhindered effort from the blue line. Sheffield needed to cash in on a power-play Scott Conway tripped Martin Latal, but Beskorowany's net could not be breached. Instead, with Tanner Eberle sitting out a roughing penalty, Cooper took just 15 seconds of the power play to notch his second of the night at 19:34.

Sheffield were handed a long five-on-three power play and got on the scoresheet at 27:15, Marco Vallerand announcing his return from injury with an assist on Robert Dowd's goal. Steelers should have narrowed the margin further after a pull-down on Vallerand led to a penalty shot, but Beskorowany denied him. It was the game's turning point.The match was put out of their reach when a turnover allowed Conway to make it 4-1 at 46:35. A fifth from an unmarked JJ Piccinich rubbed in the home side's superiority and send most of the 3,487 fans home happy.

It might feel like last-chance saloon for Sheffield tonight - they simply have to peg Belfast back and then go on and win their game in hand.