Drew Fata’s overtime winner seals play off title for Steelers

Andy Brown

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National Ice Centre

Sheffield Steelers clinched a 3-2 win over Belfast Giants to seal the ELITE Ice Hockey League play off title on Sunday.

Drew Fata’s strike two minutes into overtime sent the Steelers fans into raptures at the National Ice Centre and in turn saw the Belfast side who dominated British hockey this year have only the League and Erhardt Conference title to show for their efforts.

Despite this loss the Giants can be proud of their efforts this season having come so close to winning the quadruple.

Under the guidance of Gerad Adams, the Steelers fortunes have changed dramatically since replacing former coach Doug Christiansen in February.

He got them playing well and winning games consistently, and they finished the season with a lot of positive momentum, which they continued into the play off finals.

The two finalists endured nervous semi-final encounters on Saturday with Sheffield edging a 3-2 over Braehead Clan thanks to a 54th minute Robert Dowd winner and Belfast seeing off a strong challenge from Fife Flyers before triumphing 1-0 courtesy of a Kevin Saurette effort in the 48th minute.

A Belfast – Sheffield final was always on the cards when the play off semi-finals were announced, but when the game arrived Belfast were certainly favourites after their highly impressive league campaign where they beat second-placed Sheffield to the title by 23 points.

The final was a spectacle and the perfect game for the neutral such was the standard of hockey on display.

A fast first period ended goalless, but there were chances aplenty for both teams with the best chance of the opening period being squandered by Giant’s Chris Higgins who missed the target when Belfast broke 2 on 1.

The potency of attacking play stepped up in the second period as four goals were shared by Sheffield and Belfast.

Belfast’s Cody Brookwell opened the scoring on the powerplay with a deflected goal on 25 minutes, but Sheffield were soon back on level terms when Phil Hill equalised three minutes later.

The match was end to end as the midway point approached and the Giants regained the lead on the 30th minute with Colin Shields stabbing home from close range.

The Steelers responded and had Belfast on the back foot for the remainder of the period and deservedly levelled proceedings on 38 minutes through Dowd.

The match didn’t let up in the third as Sheffield and Belfast both gave everything in search of a winner but goaltenders Frank Doyle and Stephen Murphy were in fine form, with the latter producing a superb save to deny Steeler’s Robert Dowd.

Regular time ended with the game hung in the balance with scores tied at two apiece.

The teams barely had enough time to get warm again as the game entered the 4 on 4 overtime session when Fata wrote his name into Steelers folklore by notching the winner to secure a fourth play off title for his side.

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