Braehead Clan lose to Sheffield Steelers 4-2
Braehead Clan face an uphill task after Sheffield Steelers took control of their Challenge Cup semi-final with a 4-2 win in this first-leg clash.
It was a night that promised so much yet delivered so little for the Clan, who are looking to reach their first-ever final since joining the Elite League in 2010.
While there were positives to take from the game, it leaves Braehead with a major salvage job if they want to meet Nottingham Panthers in the final.
It all started well for Clan, as Paul Gardner's side went for the jugular early on and tested Steelers goalie John DeCaro with a couple of early chances.
But it was Jordan Krestanovich that opened the scoring as he took advantage of a tap-in after Matt Schepke's chance was stopped by DeCaro.
Jeff Legue went close with a chance for the visitors, rattling his shot off the post, but Sheffield couldn't get the breakthrough in the first period.
The home team extended their lead seconds into the middle period when Steve Birnstill's slapshot was turned on Robert Farmer as he lurked near the crease.
Steelers soon got their advantage on the powerplay with Clan's Jade Galbraith sitting out for slashing, allowing Drew Fata to thump one from the blue line to pull a goal back.
Then they levelled as Simon Ferguson's shot seemed to bounce off Clan netminder Daren Machesney and landed in the net, with Sheffield on the ascendancy.
What was a poor first period by the Steelers' standards was rectified by their second period display, peppering Clan's goal with 19 shots in the session, compared to Braehead's six.
The home team had to make do without Craig Cescon, who took a painful blow to the face and was taken to hospital and missed the rest of the game.
But the visitors had turned the first leg on its head when they took a deserved lead with a couple of minutes from the end of the second period.
A perfectly-weighted pass from Scott Champagne sprung Tylor Michel and the Steelers' forward took a touch then blasted his shot past Machesney.
The physicality shown by the Steelers' players was upsetting the Braehead fans and players as referee Neil Wilson's major calls went the Steelers' way.
But, when Sheffield put themselves 4-2 up towards the end of the third period, courtesy of a Jeff Legue tap-in, Braehead knew this tie had suddenly become a lot harder.
Afterwards, Clan defenceman Steven Birnstill maintained mistakes cost his team the chance of gaining a first-leg advantage.
He said: "I thought we played well and I think we made too many mistakes, which cost us the game. Not many, but the timing of them probably didn't help us.
"Things are tough right now, but we're fighting through and doing the best we can. If we can play well in the second leg, there's always a chance we could fight back and maybe steal it.