A mixed weekend of results for the champions after varying fortunes on the road
'We gave ourselves a mountain to climb. We nearly got there, but we didn't finish it off.'
Those were coach Paul Thompson’s words referring to Saturday’s 5-4 road defeat to Nottingham Panthers, a game that saw them 4-0 down inside 19 minutes.
But some of their fans were equally worried it could be the epitaph for their 2016-17 title race as a whole.
Last night’s comfortable win over bottom of the table Edinburgh Capitals gave a flicker of hope to those same supporters.
And Steelers are never a club to give up. It’s just not in their DNA.
But with only 12 games left, time has become just as big an enemy as Belfast Giants and Cardiff Devils.
The mountain, figuratively speaking, has been form against those top clubs. Since Nottingham beat Steelers twice over the post Christmas period, the champions lost five of 16 league games but three of those were against Belfast. Cardiff have had the whip-hand over Sheffield most of the year.
On Sunday, Sheffield comfortably put away bottom of the league Edinburgh, who had been hoping to avoid their 26th league loss of the season.
Caps’ goalie Travis Fullerton was in uncompromising mood, but the visitors thoroughly deserved to take the lead, at 16:53 Robert Dowd completing his linemates’ work.
Luke Ferrara’s celebrations were cut short when referee Neil Wilson ruled out his strike and Colton Fretter was cursing his luck after a breakaway in the second period.
Caps given their home support little to get excited about until they rattled Ervins Mustukovs’ cross bar on a Power Play after Ben O’Connor took a tripping call.
But neither side got on the scoreboard in that session, teeing up an interesting finale.
Sheffield have a good record against teams in the bottom half of the league and they ensured victory with a second, at 45:54, a second for Dowd.
That same unit scored for the third time, this time Levi Nelson finding the net at 54;47.
*Steelers can avenge Saturday’s defeat to Nottingham but turfing them out of the Challenge Cup on Tuesday. Thompson’s team take a 2-1 lead into the second leg and hope to go on to play Cardiff on Sunday, March 5.