The 2020 Challenge Cup winners: SHEFFIELD STEELERS
Sheffield Window Centre, Sheffield Steelers became the Challenge Cup winners after a hard-fought 4-3 victory over Cardiff Devils on Sunday afternoon.
Janne Kolehmainen was the only change from Friday night’s Elite League loss as he replaced James Bettauer on the forward lines.
Well before the face-off, the atmosphere was a true reflection of the two fan bases as the noise levels were deafening, even 45 minutes before the puck drop.
Steelers who were the ‘home team’ for the game in Cardiff, were led out onto the ice by Tomas Duba to a thunderous amount of noise from the incredible Steelers supporters.
Following perfect renditions of both the Welsh and British national anthems (performed by Beth and our own Eliott Kennedy), it was game time.
The tie began in even fashion with both sides enjoying puck possession but little coming in terms of high quality scoring chances. Charles Linglet of the Devils and John Armstrong of the Steelers going the closest for their respective sides.
After successfully killing the first penalty of the game, Steelers went in search of the opening goal to swing momentum back in their favour.
Whilst changing on the fly, Michael Davies skated the puck into the Devils’ zone before unleashing a wicked wrist shot low and beyond Ben Bowns (07:05).
As Cardiff looked for an immediate reply the Steelers’ defence stood tall, limiting shots on goal by keeping play to the outside walls.
A little over a minute later and Sheffield had doubled their lead, Brendan Connolly the provider as he pulled a spin-o-rama move to lose the defender and feed the puck to Vallerand.
Number 88 made no mistake as he jammed his effort by the outstretched pad of Bowns in the Cardiff goal (08:34).
Period two began with the same intensity and the Steelers were required to kill off the remaining time on a Tanner Eberle penalty.
With time on the penalty kill winding down, Connolly broke through on Bowns and was taken out before managing to get a shot on goal, a penalty shot called.
Stepping up in front of the Devils supporters, Connolly took the puck wide left before sniping a perfect wrist shot over the glove of Bowns making it 3-0.
Andrew Lord’s side took the rallying call and were on the scoreboard themselves withing minutes. At 24:06 Sam Jardine fired through seemingly every skater on the ice who had screened Duba on the play.
In a twenty-minute period controlled by the Devils, a dogged defensive display kept out the formidable forwards of Cardiff for much of the play.
A handful of brilliant saves from Duba in goal thwarted the likes of Blair Riley and Joey Martin before a pretty incredible double save on the line by Anthony DeLuca.
Cardiff did eventually make it 3-2 through Masi Marjamaki as his ‘fanned’ shot trickled under the pads of Duba (34:13).
How the Devils played throughout period two was well deserving of cutting the deficit meaning the Steelers led 3-2 heading into the final frame.
Play began to hot up as the two sides looked to take control of the game but the puck luck didn’t come either way.
In their white strip, the Devils regained the control but a few tactical changes allowed a more solid defensive look knocking back any play that swung their way.
Lead by the solid goaltending of Tomas Duba, Sheffield kept pushing back the forward lines and began to dictate opportunities.
With one goal on the game already, Michael Davies with an almost mirror image move crossed the blue line and fired low under the blocker of Bowns (4-2 at 48:52).
Time was ticking for the Devils and with Bowns pulled to the bench for the extra attacker with a little over two minutes to go, the Devils pushed hard.
Haddad, Martin, Reiley all forcing saves from Duba and blocks from the Steelers defence before Haddad finally found a way past.
His shot, again through the perfect screen beat Duba and made the final minute unbearable to watch for both sets of supporters.
John Armstrong took a delay of game penalty with seconds left on the clock which helped to kill the remaining vital moments in the Sheffield defensive zone.
As the buzzer souned the Steelers had finally clinched their first Elite League era Challenge Cup title.
Final score: Steelers 4-3 Devils