Will Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers be a goals fest?

Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers: always a heady mixSheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers: always a heady mix
Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers: always a heady mix
Ice hockey fans could be in for a goals bonanza when Sheffield Steelers host Nottingham tonight.

In a statistical oddity both teams had scored 120 times each in League play until Panthers played last night- which is exactly the same number as the league leaders Cardiff Devils.

Games between the two local rivals are usually nervous affairs, but goals in league play have not been hard to find this year, Steelers have won 6-4 and Panthers 7-4 and 5-3. Steelers have conceded more goals than anybody in the top five positions but the coach puts that down to one particularly poor spell from which they have emerged.

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Feisty winger Levi Nelson, singled out for praise from coach Paul Thompson after the Challenge Cup quarter final win at Fife Flyers on Tuesday, has been top scorer against Nottingham so far this campaign.

In seven games, he’s scored three goals and five assists, although Nottingham winger Juraj Kolnik has trumped that with nine points.

Steelers will have had chance to rest after an exhausting away-game riddled recent schedule. Nottingham will arrive at the Arena on the heels of their Friday night meeting with Belfast Giants, which promises to be a tight affair.

Corey Neilson’s men have won four out seven games against Steelers and want to put an end to a period of inconsistency that has seen them lose twice to Coventry Blaze.

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It will be interesting to see which Sheffield import sits out against them. Sheffield now have 15 imports including the injured Colton Fretter and can only play 13.

It is highly likely new signing Ryan Hayes will play - I can’t see Thompson not playing the Elite League’s top scorer, especially as his work permit was cleared on Thursday.

Thompson says: “I have to make a decision on who I have to leave out on Saturday but that is a decision I do not fear, I like to see competition.

“Nottingham is a big game for us, I will have a look at Ryan, and see where he is. I have been very happy with the group we have had, especially over the last few weeks. But competition for places always helps.”

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Thompson says he is happy with the recent form of goaltender Marek Pinc.

“Over the past six weeks his form has mainly been good, he has had a couple of blips, all players do. I thought he was outstanding in Belfast, and very good in Fife. He has to have a 91-92 per cent save ratio guy and he is reaching that now. We have to see that on a consistent basis.”

n Sheffield Steeldogs have two weekend matches, they are at Basingstoke on Saturday before hosting Swindon the day after.