What was billed as the biggest match in British hockey turned out to be the biggest let-down.
Steelers fans in an 9,300 Elite League record Sheffield Arena crowd watched their team seemingly in a post turkey dinner stupor.
In supporters’ homes, there is no hangover like a hockey hangover. And it was painful for fans to witness a team which such talent do so little.
In the end, Steelers lost 3-2, a scoreline that flattered the champions.
Coach Paul Thompson made no excuses saying: “I was disappointed in us, as a group. We didn’t turn up. That was the worst game I’ve coached here. A big crowd, a lot of expectation, families have flown from all over the world. And you would expect it to go the other way.
“Nottingham were the better team, we weren’t even close to showing what we can be about.
“Maybe mentally they are thinking about the 8-1, the 6-1 (previous wins over Panthers) but we are not going to win every game at home like that, against these guys.
“We just didn’t work together. We played a lot of one on one hockey. The quality was abysmal. We weren’t fluid enough, our transition was sloppy our passing, awful, the whole thing.”
When chances came, shots were fired directly as Miika Wiikman in the Panthers goal.
“We are all angry about our performance in front of all our fans because it was a time to put on a show and regardless of the result you want to play better than we did. We are going to lose games but if we play like that we are going to lose a lot of games. We have got to learn from it and move on.”
Panthers helped themselves to a fifth minute lead when Mike Ratchuk couldn’t clear his zone and Logan MacMillan scored. The equaliser was a memorable effort from Roy.
Just 47 seconds into the middle period, he had most of his back facing goal when he back-handed the puck into the net.
The fans’ ‘teddy bear toss’ brought proceedings to a halt for several minutes - and momentum was lost.
Panthers were the better team in the last 20 minutes.
After killing a penalty they started to control possession. Jace Coyle’s attempted clearance was gobbled up and Robert Lachowicz made it 2-1.
Jason Williams, Panthers’ new 380-NHL game new recruit, endeared himself to their following by burying a breakaway. A late Jesse Schultz goal failed to paper over the cracks.
Monday 26th December
Braehead Clan 1 Belfast Giants 5
Coventry Blaze 3 Cardiff Devils 5
Fife Flyers 9 Edinburgh Capitals 3
Manchester Storm 4 Dundee Stars 1
Sheffield Steelers 2 Nottingham Panthers 3
Tuesday 27th December
Cardiff Devils v Coventry Blaze – 7.30pm
Edinburgh Capitals v Braehead Clan – 6.30pm
Nottingham Panthers v Sheffield Steelers – 4.00pm
Wednesday 28th December
Belfast Giants v Manchester Storm – 7.00pm
Dundee Stars v Fife Flyers – 7.30pm
Thursday 29th December
Braehead Clan v Dundee Stars – 7.30pm
Coventry Blaze v Nottingham Panthers – 7.30pm
Friday 30th December
Belfast Giants v Braehead Clan – 7.00pm