Steelers end drought to win Challenge Cup

Sheffield Steelers won the Challenge Cup, the only trophy to be won before the season shut down because of COVID (PHOTO: Dave Williams)

They only went and did it finally! Almost a generation has gone by, but finally, Sheffield Steelers can call themselves Challenge Cup winners.

For the first time since 2003 – in the season before the Elite League began – the team from Yorkshire finally have their hands on this particular trophy as they overcame Cardiff Devils in Cardiff in an entertaining 4-3 game.

Six times they were the bridesmaids in this tournament in 17 years, like a Jimmy White of ice hockey, if you will, so you could understand the joy among the players and fans as Aaron Fox picked up his first trophy in the UK.

The first goal came after seven minutes when John Armstrong did well to wriggle away from a couple of Devils defenceman to play in Michael Davies and his low shot beat Ben Bowns to fire the opening salvo.

A minute and a half later, the visitors had surged into a two-goal lead as Brendan Connolly spun then made entry into the zone, dropping a pass for Marc-Olivier Vallerand and he finished at the back post.

Steelers took the title in a seven-goal game (PHOTO: James Assinder)

Steelers got themselves a penalty shot in the first minute of the second period after being impeded trying to escape with a turnover.

The finish itself was cool as you like as Connolly fired in a quick wrist shot and the Devils were three down without reply.

They needed a reaction and got one quickly as they struck back a couple of minutes later as Sam Jardine sent a rasping snapshot into the net for the blue line and gave Cardiff new impetus.

Andrew Lord’s side closed the gap to one with six to go in the second as Mike McNamee set up Masi Marjamaki, who didn’t get full contact on the shot, but got enough on it to commit Tomas Duba in the Steelers goal and the puck was in the net.

The game was finely poised as the Devils tried to find a way through, but found Duba on top form as he moved the puck away from danger at any given opportunity.

Captain Jonathan Phillips laps up his latest honour (PHOTO: Rebecca Brain)

Intensity increased as Cardiff tried to find the leveller, but one excellent move saw their task made much harder with 11 minutes to go.

Davies picked up the puck in the neutral zone and made inroads towards the Devils net, despatching the shot past Bowns’ blocker as it looked like the insurance marker.

Joey Haddad struck with a minute to go to make it a nervy finale and renew hope that Cardiff could pull something out of the bag.  

It wasn’t to be for them as Steelers celebrated at the final buzzer, scooping the silverware and also gaining some level of revenge for their 7-3 loss on the same pad on Friday.

A night 17 years in the making and one Sheffield fans all over can be proud of.

A proud Aaron Fox and his team watch the celebrations (PHOTO: Rebecca Brain)

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