Known as the ‘biggest game in British ice hockey’, this fixture seriously lived up to its hugely hyped up pre-match billing as the two-time reigning champions Sheffield Steelers thrashed the Nottingham Panthers 8-1.
Mathieu Roy and Colton Fretter both scored twice for the Steelers with further strikes coming from Jesse Schultz, Robert Dowd and Ben O’Connor. Panthers captain Brad Moran scored with the consolation very late on.
In a physical confrontation it was the Steelers who made their time with the puck count most which left boss Paul Thompson delighted with the result, adding in his post-match press conference that “it was all very rewarding, very pleasing” despite the last second Panthers goal.
With over 8,000 fans packing into Sheffield Arena on Saturday evening, the battle between the Sheffield Steelers and Nottingham Panthers was one not to be missed. With the Steelers bang inform and two of the strongest rosters in the league going head-to-head the ice hockey on display from the Steelers in particular was amongst some of the finest you’ll see all season in the EIHL as they easily overpowered the Panthers. The Panthers were looking to stop the rot and obtain a win for the first time in their last five outings.
It was Nottingham’s early poor discipline that paved the way for the Steelers to take the lead as forward Robert Dowd redirected a powerful Christoffer Bjorklund shot from the point to give them the lead after 9 minutes whilst on the powerplay. Steelers fans only had to wait 25 seconds until the goal sirens were sounded again as Colton Fretter fired past Panthers goaltender Jindrich Pacl from close range.
Granted, the Panthers were without four players through injury and others on the ice were struggling on less than full fitness but they offered very little in the opening period of the match and found themselves 3-0 down going into the break as man of the match Mathieu Roy scored a rebound from a John Armstrong shot on goal.
Showing a worrying lack of team spirit in the first the Panthers were slow out of the blocks once again in the second period, struggling to hold the puck and possession confidently at any point on the night. As Steelers Davey Phillips put out a big hit on an opposing player, him and the Panthers Jeff Brown traded punches as Nottingham looked for a way back into the contest.
But it wasn’t to be as first Fretter struck again from close range before Roy also grabbed his second of the night with a sweet slapshot from mid-range.
If Panthers fans thought it couldn’t get any worse before the second period ended, they were wrong. Ben O’Connor this time taking advantage of more poor defending to score the goal of the night with a fantastic solo effort, taking on two Panthers before coolly slotting home. The Steelers were having a party and the Panthers weren’t invited.
The third period followed suit and saw the Steelers increase their lead to 8-0 thanks to a tip in from forward Jesse Schultz and an easy finish from Markus Nilsson who ghosted into the Panthers goal mouth and deked round keeper Pacl with alarming ease. There was a late consolation for captain Brad Moran and the Panthers in the final second of the game which ruined the home teams’ potential shut out but it did little to lift the embarrassment of the result for the away side, a team that are much, much better than how they performed on the night.
Speaking to media after the match Sheffield Steelers boss Paul Thompson was quick to heap praise on his side as expected. “It’s two big points against our biggest rivals. It does make our heart smile tonight” whilst man of the match and ‘the king of Sheffield’ as he’s known by Sheffield fans Matheiu Roy added “we never stopped, we never looked back and we got the result.”
The win keeps the Steelers in 4th place in the EIHC, 7 points behind leaders Cardiff Devils but with 5 games in hand. The Panthers stay 5th place in the table and will want to quickly forget about their extremely poor showing at Sheffield Arena.
Photo credit: http://sheffieldsteelers.co.uk/steelers-8-1-panthers/