A highly professional 3-1 win at the Arena on Saturday means the Irish enter today’s second leg three points clear of their rivals with three league games to play.
If the Giants win in regulation time tonight, they will have amassed 84 points and the Steelers could only get 83 points from their remaining games.
On the other hand, if Sheffield win their remaining three games (including two against Belfast), they will be champions.
It won’t be an easy task.
Belfast brims with self-confidence.
Adam Keefe’s team is quick and direct and his skaters supported the man on the puck in transition, putting pressure on the home side several times.
Sheffield manager Aaron Fox said: “Obviously we have to improve our game. It’s all still in our hands; you never want to see someone win a trophy in your arena, so I expect a step back. and hopeless hockey.”
The visiting title favorites were clean and tidy in their cast, moving solidly as a unit and had all the hallmarks of the champions-elect.
The Steelers found themselves with a mountain to climb after just eight minutes.
Mark Cooper scored his first goal by exploiting a lunge between Rok Stojanovic’s left arm and the post.
Sheffield had wanted to give as few penalties as possible and, in that moment, the Giants had shown precisely why.
The Irish front row then illustrated why they are the most feared in the league, with JJ Piccinich performing, assisted by David Goodwin and Scott Conway.
Sheffield’s chance was clear to all in the 17th minute. Vojtech Polak missed a shot into the slot, then fired a stumble penalty as the Giants countered.
Belfast came into the interval past their hosts 12-4 and with their tails in the air.
Their control of the game was reflected in a 1-0 winning streak midway through the period, with Piccinich winning a battle for the puck outside the slot and planting it at 28:00.
Sheffield had a few chances, with Marco Vallerand’s sneaky shot being seen all the way through by Tyler Beskorowany, Robert Dowd hitting the side netting and Evan Mosey missing on a breakaway.
The giants, however, make few mistakes and remain focused on their task.
They conceded with Kevin Raine lying injured on the ice, at 43:06, Tanner Eberle finally finding the net.
But they weren’t going to allow another to overtake Beskorowany.
Many of the 7,647 returned home wondering if they had seen the last of their league title chances at Sheffield this season.
But it’s never over until it’s over…
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This notice was published: 2022-04-10 08:25:54