Sheffield Steelers 5-4 Cardiff Devils
Sheffield had a say in the title race when they beat Belfast a few weeks ago, and they may have had another tonight with victory over Cardiff.
After a pretty even opening period, the Steelers took the lead at the very end of the first – Anthony DeLuca going through Ben Bowns’ five-hole from close range as clock ran down.
A thunderbolt of a wrist-shot from DeLuca then gave Bowns no chance with 25:25 played as the Steelers moved two ahead; and things got better for the hosts who then went 3-0 up after Drew Schiestel gave the puck away in his own zone, allowing Jonathan Phillips to eventually poke the puck home 24 seconds later.An unnecessary minor penalty taken by Josh McFadden gave the Devils a chance to get back into the game, and they needed only seven seconds of the powerplay before Mark Richardson was able to wrist shot through traffic at 39:54. However Sheffield went back three ahead thanks to DeLuca completing his hat-trick with one-timer in the slot only 36 seconds later.
A spell of five goals in just over six minutes came to an end when Joey Martin was able to poke a deflected puck past Jackson Whistle at 31:36/ to make it 2-4. After some relative calm, Cardiff got themselves back to within one early in the final period – Mike Hedden with the goal 1:45 in to the final 20 minutes. DeLuca though was still hungry for more, and got his fourth and the Steelers’ fifth of the night as he again beat Bowns low down the middle with 47:25 played. Mike Hedden set up an exciting final 2:08 when he pulled the score back to 5-4 on the powerplay with the goalie also pulled, but despite some late pressure the Devils couldn’t beat Whistle again and the Steelers held on for the win.
These two points move the Steelers up to seven clear of falling out of the playoffs, while Cardiff are knocked off top spot by Belfast’s win.
Game photos (Dean Woolley):