Seven thousand people watched on as Nottingham Panthers beat arch rivals Sheffield Steelers 5-4 on the 11th February at the Motorpoint Arena. The Panthers came out of blocks quickly and took the lead when Brian McGrattan beat the Sheffield netminder after Robert Farmer, who had done well to retrieve the puck, sent the puck back to his teammate to fire home.
Panthers would later double their lead in the first period, with Stephen Schultz on the scoresheet as he fired brilliantly past the away netminder to make it 2-0 to the home side.
McGrattan, would later make it 3-0 for the European Cup winners, when he put the biscuit in the basket following an excellent counter-attack from the Nottingham side, and at this point it seemed as if the Panthers would overwhelm their rivals, who currently lie two places above the Panthers in 3rd position in the Elite Ice Hockey League.
“That win saw the Panthers consolidate their position in 5th place in the league, although they have games in hand on the teams’ above.”
Nottingham did then make it 4-0 when Brad Motzan finished well after an excellent feed from teammate Alex Nikifotzuk. This signalled the end of an excellent first period for the Panthers, whereas the Steelers knew that they would have to put in an excellent performance in the second period in order to have any chance of coming back into the game.
The away side provided just that, when two quick-fire goals put them within two goals of the Panthers before a further goal from the away side made it 4-3, with the Steelers close to completing an epic comeback away at their arch rivals.
However, a goal from forward David Clarke made sure of the 3 points for the home side, despite a late consolation from the spirited Steelers, as the match finished 5-4 to the Panthers. That win saw the Panthers consolidate their position in 5th place in the league, although they have games in hand on the teams’ above.
Panthers faced up against their rivals again just 3 days later in the Challenge Cup, but there would be no Valentine’s delight for the Nottingham side, as they were knocked out of the cup by the Steelers, who gained revenge for their loss in the previous match, claiming a comfortable 3-0 win (5-1 on aggregate).
“The Panther’s chances of winning any domestic silverware this season now rely on their play-off hopes.”
Corey Neilson’s men will be disappointed they were unable to truly test Steelers netminder Ervins Mustukovs more in the first two periods at the Sheffield Arena. The Steelers were ahead 1-0 at the intermission and failed to create many chances, but killed the tie off in the late stages of the second period, as the Panthers pushed forward in search of the two goals they needed to level the tie on aggregate.
“This potential disappointment will surely be overshadowed by their achievement of winning the Continental cup in January.”
After Panthers’ clash with the Steelers, Neilson’s team had two games in two days against Coventry Blaze over the weekend. The first clash ended in a 4-1 victory at the National Ice Centre, which featured a wonderful goal from Robert Farmer as the home side extended their 2-0 advantage from the end of the second period with finishes from Stephen Schultz and Robert Lachowicz.
Neilson’s team’s run-in doesn’t get any easier as the National Ice Centre-based club are up against top-of-the-table Cardiff Devils on Tuesday night, and then face South Yorkshire rivals Sheffield for the third time in a month away at iceSheffield on Saturday 25th.
The Panther’s chances of winning any domestic silverware this season now rely on their play-off hopes, but this potential disappointment will surely be overshadowed by their achievement of winning the Continental Cup in January, as they became the first UK Ice Hockey team to claim a major European trophy.
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