League winners Steelers are through to the Play Off semi-finals against Hull Stingrays and on course for a double after seeing off a gallant threat from Fife, who finished eighth in the 10-team league.
At times Gerad Adams’ side were too fast, clinical and disciplined for Todd Dutiaume’s team, yet they endured a late mini-crisis last night when they conceded a 3-0 lead to tie 3-3 on the night, winning 6-5 overall.
Adams can take many positives out of the weekend, but throwing away such an advantage cannot happen again if they are to win the Play Offs.
Last night, only minutes after Mathieu Roy had been handed named the Elite League player of the year award, the winger put his side 1-0 up. He looked like he was going to pass from a relatively innocuous position but fired a speculative effort past Kevin Regan, who should have done better.
It was a lively start with Fife forechecking hard. Josh Unice had work to do with shots from Kyle Haines and Bobby Chaumont but the best check - and there were a few - came from Rod Sarich on Jordan Fulton.
Despite the Scots’ appetite, Steelers were inventive and precise - it was impossible to pick which line was contributing more. Rob Dowd’s speed and stick-handling was a nightmare for Fife’s defence and his one-timer flashed home for 2-0, at 14;32.
Fife defended bravely after giving away two consecutive power plays; the last one an idoitic slashing on Dowd by Matt Nickerson. The dozy d-man finished his time in the box and then ruined a Fife attack by straying offside.
The Scots had closed their men down well but Scott Fleming failed to narrow the gap between him and Dowd at 32;20 and the Teessider shot a beauty for 3-0.
Flyers wouldn’t cave in. Matt Reber missed their clearest chance but they found the net at 36;37, when Thomas Muir’s shot was tipped past Josh Unice by Stephen Gunn.
Steelers’ last home game of the season should have been safe, but at 47;40 Chris Auger cut in from the left flank and his drive was directed in by Fulton. Fife grabbed control; Haines hammered against the post and Danny Stewart, Danny made it 3-3. Steelers had turned a comfortable scoreline into a draw, but at least they are through.
*Saturday night made it advantage-Steelers with a 3-2 win at Kirkcaldy - but it was anything but an easy ride.
Fife were the better team for long periods and Jamie Milam put them ahead on 27 minutes, although that lasted just over a minute when Mike Forney executed after play involving two d-men, Dustin Kohn and Darrell Hay.
Colton Fretter then gave the visitors the lead at 37;41 and it looked like Sheffield would hang on to that until six minutes to go, when Flyers’ top marksman Med Lukacevic made it 2-2.
Dowd buried with the winner with just 34 seconds left - and what an important strike that turned out to be.
Sunday 29th March 2015
Play-Offs Quarter Final 2nd Leg
Cardiff Devils 3 Belfast Giants 7 (agg 3-8)
Coventry Blaze 2 Nottingham Panthers 1 (agg 5-4)
Hull Stingrays 2 Braehead Clan 1 (agg 4-4) Hull win in OT
Sheffield Steelers 3 Fife Flyers 3 (agg 6-5)
Saturday 4th April 2015
Play-Offs Semi Finals @ NIC Nottingham
Sheffield Steelers v Hull Stingrays – 1.00pm
Belfast Giants v Coventry Blaze - 5.00pm