Sheffield Steelers have had a bittersweet weekend after beating local rivals Nottingham Panthers but losing to sixth place Fife Flyers, making sure that the Steelers remain in third place.
The Flyers, who have lost their past four games, came out strong from the first minute with forwards Carlo Finucci almost scoring. The Steelers wrestled back the momentum from Fife, scoring early on in the first period, but by the end the Flyers were asserting their dominance.
The Steelers briefly dragged their way back into the action in the second period, the Flyers quickly brought back their one goal advantage just over the half-way mark.
Sheffield tried to salvage the situation, pulling their netminder with over three minutes of the game left – a decision that didn’t pay off. Finnuci scored in an empty net, leaving Sheffield beat 6-3.
Sheffield head coach, Paul Thompson, said the Steelers “just weren’t good enough” against the Flyers.
“Fife deserved their win, they played well tonight. No excuses.
“We weren’t sharp tonight. Good honest professional players made mistakes they don’t normally make. Tired mistakes. Tired penalties.
“We will bounce back,” Thompson said.
Sunday’s effort was a marked difference from how the Steelers started the weekend off. With scores to settle against the Panthers after their Boxing Day victory over Sheffield, the Steelers came out with a show of strength.
The first period was penalties galore. After the opening fight, there was a textbook boarding penalty from the Panthers which resulted in a controversial game ban for Nikiforuk.
It was second period where the Steelers finally came alive.
The Steelers successfully broke-out from their zone, passing to the high man who slapshot the puck through the wide open five-hole of the Patnthers netminder, Miika Wiikman.
Shortly after, traffic in front of the net let the puck slip in. Glove-side, the puck was just not visible.
The second period Sheffield goals kept coming. After a barrage of players in front of the goaltender, a shorthanded Nottingham just couldn’t ice the puck with Sheffield scoring from a rebound.
But if the second period was the Steelers, the third was the Panthers.
Lachowicz scored within the first three minutes, with another goal coming just under a minute later from Clarke. Time and time again the Sheffield crowd thought the tide was turning.
Fortunately for the near-capacity home audience, the Steelers clung on.
— STEELERS OFFICIAL (@steelershockey) February 25, 2017
But as with Sheffield in Fife, this proved to be the nail in the coffin. Even with a sixth man, they failed to prevent the Steelers escaping their zone with just 21-seconds left, sliding into the empty-net from the halfway line.
Nottingham forwards Chris Lawrence said that the loss was heartbreaking, but tried to look at the bright side.
“Two wins in two fights of their respective bouts, it’s nice to see the boys mix it up like that … it’s nice to see them sticking up for the locker room like that,” he said.
The Cardiff Devils remain at the top of the league.