Treble hunting Sheffield in the mood to start trophy-haul this week

Grand Slam-hunting Sheffield Steelers can look forward to chalking off the first title in their potential treble after a dramatic return to form.
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Aaron Fox's men had slipped up at home to reigning champions Belfast Giants on Saturday but showed exactly what they are capable of in Sunday's 6-1 rout over the same opposition.

When Sheffield play like they did on Sunday, nobody in the Elite League can stay with them.

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And that is the challenge in the Challenge Cup final awaiting Guildford Flames on Wednesday.

They will have to cope with a team full of blistering offensive pace and a super-strong defensive know-how.

After last weekend's games, Giants' coach Adam Keefe identified speed as the difference between Steelers and the rest.

He said the runaway league leaders came out "pretty angry" after Saturday's loss and, significantly, his side "could not match their pace. The game was over in the first period.

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"They just showed their class, Sheffield showed why they are in first place, why they are in the position they are in, and overwhelmed us with their pace."

Deep joy for Sam Jones and Steeler colleagues Pic Dean WoolleyDeep joy for Sam Jones and Steeler colleagues Pic Dean Woolley
Deep joy for Sam Jones and Steeler colleagues Pic Dean Woolley

That speed was the difference and the match had underlined how far Belfast has to go to match them.

Sunday had the feeling of the reigning king formally handing over accession to the EIHL throne.

Steelers won this game in hand over second-place Cardiff Devils to lead the one-horse race by 11 points, with 10 league games left on the calendar.

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A Cup final win against the Flames would supercharge them into the final straight and the Play Offs.

It's there in black and white: Steelers are in title moodIt's there in black and white: Steelers are in title mood
It's there in black and white: Steelers are in title mood

While Steelers went into Sunday's game with a still-healthy advantage over their EIHL rivals, the fixture was still seen as a must-win game.

They had lost to Belfast, 5-2, the night before on their Arena pad, taking the shine off some of the joy of the return of some of the club's former greats, in a retro event.

Saturday's reverse had been their second straight loss at home and, overall, their third in five outings.

Hardly the form of champions.

No friend of mine...Jacob Friend runs into Scott Allen Pic Dean WoolleyNo friend of mine...Jacob Friend runs into Scott Allen Pic Dean Woolley
No friend of mine...Jacob Friend runs into Scott Allen Pic Dean Woolley
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But the fans were quickly reminded of the true potency and promise of this team.

Daniel Ciampini ended a six-match, personal barren streak to put Sheffield ahead on 28 seconds and it was 2-0, via Mitchell Balmas after 65 seconds.

Two goals in two shifts.

It felt like a rout might be on the cards.

Scott Allen took a charging penalty and Matthew McLeod notched his third of the weekend at the Arena, for Belfast.

But the first-period onslaught continued with Robert Dowd and Balmas making it 4-1.

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Both sides successfully killed penalties in a barren middle session.

Steelers were fizzing in the final 10 minutes with Allen and Marc-Olivier Vallerand rolling up a 6-1 victory.

A day's rest and re-focus and Sheffield will be ready for the winner-takes-all game with Guildford.