Good news. Bad news.
Steelers beat the reigning champions Belfast Giants 3-2 in the League at home last night - but came up short 2-1 at Nottingham Panthers in the Challenge Cup on Saturday.
To be unbeaten in the league after three games is a reasonable start to the regular campaign and with more Challenge Cup games coming thick and fast there is time to repair the damage from the NIC.
Last night a supercharged performance in goal from Frank Doyle led the way.
Belfast, who had won 3-2 at Hull on Saturday, made the early running, Adam Keefe scoring on two minutes.
But veterans Rod Sarich, Jonathan Phillps and the scorer, Jason Hewitt, combined to level at 5;17. And on the second of two power plays they took the lead, Cullen Eddy drifting into the danger zone to convert.
Belfast’s Mike Kompon hit Steelers’ pipework on 14 minutes and Darryl Lloyd fluffed a chance on a 3-on-1 breakaway for Giants. Doyle needed to cover his angles well when Mark McCutcheon found himself in a good position.
Steelers had to kill two penalties at the start of the middle period. This they did - only to concede after being caught out four-against-two for Robby Sandrock to level at 2-2, at 24;44. Sheffield were guilty of another odd-man rush straight after the goal too.
Both sides were scrapping for the puck in an untidy game.
But Sheffield had the clearer chances, Jay Latulippe fanned on one and Gord Baldwin’s big slapshot was blocked by Stephen Murphy, who also stopped Mathieu Roy’s effort before it went over the line. Murphy’s face-mask also prevented Rob Dowd for scoring.
Sheffield went ahead for a second time at 43;52 when Colton Fretter wriggled clear and shot low into the far corner.
Belfast aren’t champions for nothing and committed major resources forward to find a way back, but four men in orange policed the slot and goalie Doyle was in defiant form.
On Saturday, Steelers’ new ‘galacticos’ were shut down by an efficient Nottingham Panthers’ defence. With the imports neutralised, the only Sheffield goal came from the man who scored in the same rink in the Play Off final in his last appearance there, Welshman Phil Hill.
Goals close to the start of both the second and third periods from Chris Lawrence and Brandon Benedict secured the spoils for Panthers, who outshot Steelers 49-26. Steelers’ inability to clear their zone before Benedict’s strike was the turning point.
Gerad Adams men also spent 30 minutes in the penalty box, although the penalty killers did their job, Devin Di Diomete picking up a misconduct at the final whistle of the Cup game.
“We were not at our best in some areas” said Adams, who was unhappy about Dean Smith’s ‘ridiculous’ refereeing and his own side’s indiscipline and puck possession.