Video: Sheffield 4-2 Nottingham Panthers, coach interview: Steelers’ boss upset over criticism

Sheffield Steelers stormed into the lead with a scintillating 3-0 middle period display during a blood-and-thunder against Nottingham Panthers.

But they were pinned back in the final session and had to scrap it out for the points.

Jeff Brown and Geoff Walker go toe to toe in an early fight. Pic by Matt McLellan

Jeff Brown and Geoff Walker go toe to toe in an early fight. Pic by Matt McLellan

Sadly, with Cardiff Devils winning 8-0, they didn’t put a dent in the Welsh club’s lead at the top of the table.

Saturday’s 3-0 middle period made up for a sterile first session in which a five minute power play - given when Alex Nikiforuk boarded Markus Nilsson - came and went without troubling goalie Miika Wiikman.

Steelers went into the game one point ahead of Belfast Giants, in second place, six points behind leaders and title favourites Cardiff Devils.

And they were in for an explosive start when Geoff Walker fought with Jeff Brown centre ice - Brown lasting longer on his feet.

Levi Nelson in action. Pic; Dean Woolley

Levi Nelson in action. Pic; Dean Woolley

Mike Ratchuk, guilty of a couple of give-aways, was unfortunate with one darting run into the Notts slot.

But Panthers’ five-minute kill seemed to take the sting out of Steelers’ offence.

A speculative left wing shot from Mathieu Roy opened the scoring at 20;31.

His firm drive surprised the less-than-nimble Wiikman.

And Roy too - judging by his expression.

John Armstrong’s shot four minutes later doubled the advantage, Jonathan Phillips having deflecting the effort home.

And it was 3-0 when Ben O’Connor’s prompting set up Walker.

Nottingham’s Stephen Schultz and Brown both wasted chances on the Power Play to ensure a middle period clean sheet.

As much as Sheffield dominated that period, Nottingham dominated the next.

Robert Lachowicz ghosted past Davey Phillips to score at 42;39.

And just 47 seconds later Sheffield’s defence and first line were outworked - David Clarke scoring from the slot.

Panthers then had four clean chances to level.

There was a brief respite when Guillaume Desbiens broke clear, but Jindrich Pacl, who had taken over in goal at the second interval, saved brilliantly.

Captain Phillips scored an empty netter to ensure maximum points from an eventful game.

Coach Paul Thompson admitted Panthers had a dominating few minutes, but was pleased how his team closed the game down. “It was pretty easy for two periods...we just have to keep it rolling.”

* Steelers’ owner Tony Smith has swiftly responded to criticism from some Sheffield ice hockey fans for taking part in the fans’ 50-50 lottery draw.

Last Wednesday, after the game with Edinburgh Capitals, he won the jackpot...but immediately put the cash into a roll-over for tonight.

In the programme for tonight’s game with Nottingham Panthers, Smith wrote: “My inbox was full because of my 50-50 win. Some great comments which really mean a lot but as expected some nasty ones from people who don’t know me and have never met me.

“So to the ones who feel Steelers’ staff should never buy tickets I say you’re wrong.

“What you’re actually doing is throwing doubt on the credibility of not only the Steelers draw but the whole organisation.

“Steelers pride ourselves on how the draw is conducted and how transparent it is, so please stick to your day jobs be it web design, driving lorries or accountancy - it smacks of sour grapes to me.”

*Former Steelers’ coach Alex Dampier has been allowed home to Canada after bone marrow transplant and other treatment in Cleveland, America.

RESULTS

Saturday 25th February

Elite League

Belfast Giants 7 Fife Flyers 2

Braehead Clan 4 Dundee Stars 1

Cardiff Devils 8 Coventry Blaze 0

Manchester Storm 2 Edinburgh Capitals 5

Sheffield Steelers 4 Nottingham Panthers 2

FIXTURES

Sunday 26th February

Elite League

Coventry Blaze v Manchester Storm – 5.15pm

Edinburgh Capitals v Cardiff Devils – 6.00pm

Fife Flyers v Sheffield Steelers – 6.30pm

Nottingham Panthers v Belfast Giants – 4.00pm