Sheffield Steelers win the Christmas series with Nottingham Panthers with tonight’s second victory in 24 hours

Scrum behind the net
Scrum behind the net

The Christmas honours have gone to Sheffield in the spicy, seasonal two-game joust with Nottingham.

Around 9,300 fans crammed into the Arena on Thursday night to watch British hockey's hottest rivals contest the second in the December series.

Steelers' 3-2 win at Nottingham on Boxing Day had statistically split the season neatly into two. After 30 games, they'd won 15, lost 15.

So a positive result against Panthers on Thursday – in the end, a 5-3 victory – saw them break ínto the black.

There was no indication in an absorbing first period who would get the spoils, though.

Steelers, who had scratched a fit Stefan Della Rovere from the squad for the first time, were hemmed into their own zone for a few shifts in the early part of the game but some talented defensive work was on show.

Ryan Martinelli challenged on the boards. Pic Hayley Roberts

Ryan Martinelli challenged on the boards. Pic Hayley Roberts

Aaron Johnson whisked the puck off Justin Kovacs' stick as he approached the blue paint and Ben O'Connor used his body to intervene on a Panthers' two-on-one raid.

There had been few chances around Panthers' net, but that changed when Evan McGrath poked in from short range at 6.45.

Sheffield, who had won the corresponding post Christmas encounters the previous year, could have made it two with a delightful move featuring O'Connor and John Armstrong.

Coach Tom Barrasso was shaking his head at the refereeing leniency when Climie had his legs chopped from underneath him but he had more to worry about when Alex Guptill eased away from Josh Pitt and levelled at 12;47.

John Armstrong leans in for a face off Pic Hayley Roberts

John Armstrong leans in for a face off Pic Hayley Roberts

Both side could have gone ahead before the interval, with Kovacs hitting a post and Pitt failing on a breakaway.

Nottingham occasionally out-muscled Sheffield on one-on-ones and they suffered little interference down Sheffield's right flank and took a 1-2 lead through Alexandre Bolduc at 25;58.

An opportunity arose to wipe out their lead as two Panthers took simultaneous penalties. On the 5-on-3 powerplay Nottingham shut the door. Yet Rich Chernomaz's men couldn't build on that momentum, as Armstrong stretched to cleverly deflect a speeding puck past Michael Garnett to equalise at 32;39.

Nottingham fans, packing their section, were celebrating their 'third' at 41;59 after a Ryan Martinelli error had seemingly been punished, but the strike failed a video review.

Sheffield Arena

Sheffield Arena

Guptill then blazed wide of the far post.

But Panthers' exposed a Sheffield line-change and went 3-2 up at 50;05; Guptill this time making no mistake.

Forty seconds later, it was all square again, Pitt cruising in to make it 3-3. Better still, a huge Josh McFadden slapshot from wide flashed into the net. A powerplay goal from Pitt cemented Steelers' 5-3 win.