If ever a result can supercharge a team’s season, this could be it.
Steelers are through to the Challenge Cup final after a 3-0 win (agg 5-1) over Nottingham Panthers.
Steelers have been wedged in third place in the league for weeks without much evidence of progressing forward.
And before last night’s semi final they saw d-man Christoffer Bjorklund depart back to Sweden - at what is a very odd time for the club.
So cementing a Cup final place is a confidence booster and could yet spill over into extra league consistency.
Zack Fitzgerald, missing from Sheffield’s last two matches, was soon off the ice again - serving a 10 minutes misconduct awarded after he retaliated, following a boarding on Davey Phillips.
Steelers’ feverishly busy line of Dowd-Valdix-Nelson opened the scoring, working the puck to Phillips, who fired through a screen at 7:52.
NHL veteran, Brian McGrattan, who scored twice against Sheffield last Saturday at the NIC and made his Panthers debut against the South Yorshire team last September, got into a good position but was neutralised well by Ben O’Connor.
Swedish goaltender Miika Wiikman kept the visitors in the game with a string of saves, one of them from John Armstrong on a breakaway.
But he was fortunate when defenceman Phillips cracked the puck against his cross bar.
The semi final boiled over at 32;21 when a check to Fitzgerald’s head by Jeff Brown led to a bout with Markus Nilsson. Brown was given a match penalty.
Neither side seemed to settle into their strides, although Colton Fretter placed the puck narrowly wide on a clear chance.
Having been stonewalled for two periods and two down on aggregate, Nottingham knew they would have to undergo a radical change in the final 20 minutes.
David Clarke tried his luck with an effort, but Ervins Mustukovs wasn’t threatened, while Wiikman had again to deal with a shot from the energised Phillips.
Penalties to Fitzgerald and Yared Hagos presented PP chances to Nottingham and Panthers pull their netminder with fully 3:37 left.
But Geoff walker’s empty-netter with two minutes remaining gift wrapped another shut-out victory - followed by a Levi Nelson goal with 32 seconds remaining.