Heading into Sunday’s game, the Devils and Steelers were tied in third place in the league standings with three games remaining for both teams. Matt Greenfield got the start in the Sheffield net, while Ben Bowns was back in net for the Devils. The Steelers were without former Devil Brandon McNally and defenceman Sam Jones after both players were suspended following an on-ice incident against Belfast on Friday night. The Devils were without forward Ryan Penny who is out injured but is expected to return for the playoffs.
FIRST PERIOD – The Devils got on the scoresheet early with Brodie Reid putting in a rebound after he set up Marcus Crawford who was stopped by Greenfield. Reid was right there to spin around and shoot on net, but the puck was actually deflected into the goal off the skate of the Steelers defender to make it 1-0 just 1:40 into the game.
Robert Dowd tied the game for the home side with an individual effort to get past Blake Thompson and somehow snuck the puck through the legs of Bowns to make it 1-1 at 6:48. At 8:13, the Devils were on the penalty kill after Sam Jardine was called for holding, but the Steelers failed to convert with the man advantage. The period ended tied at 1-1 with the Steelers outshooting the Devils 8-5.
SECOND PERIOD – The teams traded powerplay chances early in the period with Robert Dowd sitting for the Steelers and Marcus Crawford for the Devils, but both penalty killing units kept the score tied at 1-1. Alex Graham put the Steelers ahead at 32:45 when a shot was deflected off the skate of Mark Louis right onto Graham’s stick and he fired the puck past Bowns to make it 2-1. A late tripping call on Dowd gave the Devils another chance with the man advantage and this time they made it count. Marcus Crawford’s perfect pass set up a Cole Sanford one-timer that beat Greenfield to tie the game with 14 seconds remaining in the period.
THIRD PERIOD – The Devils had an early powerplay chance, but it was the Steelers who got a scoring chance with a near breakaway from a broken play, which resulted in Sanford taking a hooking call to prevent a goal. The teams skated 4 on 4 for nearly two minutes, but just as the Steelers returned to full strength, Brendan Connolly scored on a feed from Evan Mosey to beat Bowns and give the Steelers a 3-2 lead at 45:26.
The Devils pushed for the tying goal, even pulling the goalie very early, with over three minutes to play to try and score the equaliser, but it never came. Despite some good pressure and a couple point blank shots in the dying seconds of the game, Greenfield made the key saves when it counted, and the Steelers hung on for the 3-2 win.
Photos courtesy of Hayley Roberts