Belfast Giants 1-4 Sheffield Steelers: 3pt weekend for champs

Ervins Mustukovs

 faces Belfast Giants' Brandon Benedict. Photo by William Cherry
Ervins Mustukovs faces Belfast Giants' Brandon Benedict. Photo by William Cherry
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Write them off at your peril.

Sheffield Steelers have reinforced their legitimacy as championship candidates with a three point weekend, following back-to-back games at Belfast Giants.

On Sunday they posted an impeccable 4-1 win in Northern Ireland to trim Giants lead over them to five points, Sheffield having three games in hand.

Steelers had gone into the match desperate for a win against the team immediately above them in second spot.

Since December, they had lost all of their six games against the other teams in the top four.

On Saturday, a disputed Chris Higgins goal had beaten them and it was the Giants’ top scorer who put the home side ahead 24 hours later, after 10 minutes.

Action from the SSE Arena

Action from the SSE Arena

But rangey centre John Armstrong, at 19;19. tied things at 1-1.

And just 36 seconds later, centreman Yared Hagos gave Sheffield a first period lead, his first since making his debut on Bonfire Night.

Sheffield increased their advantage with Mathieu Roy finishing off a Markus Nilsson and Colton Fretter move at 30:36, which was followed soon after by a punch-up between Adam Keefe and Zack Fitzgerald, the Steeler eventually emerging on top.

As expected, Ervins Mustukovs and his defence were to come under pressure as Giants upped their game and Sheffield conceded minor penalties.

But Steelers wrapped up an impressive all-round display when Roy wouldn’t give up on a loose puck and played in Fretter who popped into the empty net at 58:49.

The win sent out a statement that Steelers league title push is still very much alive.

* On Saturday, against the same opposition, Sheffield claim an overtime winner from Chris Higgins had been offside, but ref Tom Darnell thought otherwise and two points went to Derrick Walser’s team in a 2-1 victory.

While Steelers got a point out of it, the result meant they had failed to win half of their last 12 games.

The first two periods had been goalless with both defences on top.

Fretter scored his fifth goal in seven games, but it was levelled within 22 seconds by Colin Shields before the game went into the extra session.

After the ‘offside’ decider, Steelers official Dave Simms said: “The video and still photos show it was off side.”

* Steelers host Edinburgh Capitals on Wednesday.

RESULTS

Sunday 8th January

Elite League

Belfast Giants 1 Sheffield Steelers 4

Braehead Clan 2 Cardiff Devils 3 (PS)

Coventry Blaze 3 Nottingham Panthers 2 (PS)

Dundee Stars 6 Edinburgh Capitals 0

Fife Flyers 3 Manchester Storm 1

FIXTURES

Wednesday 11th January

Elite League

Sheffield Steelers v Edinburgh Capitals – 7.30pm: iceSheffield

Saturday 14th January

Elite League

Braehead Clan v Edinburgh Capitals – 7.00pm

Cardiff Devils v Belfast Giants – 7.00pm

Fife Flyers v Dundee Stars – 7.15pm

Sheffield Steelers v Coventry Blaze – 7.00pm

Sunday 15th January

Elite League

Coventry Blaze v Sheffield Steelers – 5.15pm

Dundee Stars v Belfast Giants – 6.30pm

Edinburgh Capitals v Fife Flyers – 6.00pm

Manchester Storm v Braehead Clan – 5.30pm