It proved a blue Christmas for Sheffield as they were easily undone by their ach rivals Nottingham Panthers for a second successive night.
After a 5-3 loss in Sheffield on Boxing Day, Steelers went into Nottingham looking for revenge, but were again second best in front of a capacity crowd. Steelers’ player coach Ryan Finnerty, still carrying a back injury, sat out as Neil Clark returned to the line-up – and it made poor viewing from the bench.
Captain Jonathan Phillips said: “We are really disappointed. We wanted at least a split weekend but in the end we fell short. We lost momentum. Panthers played well and (goalie) Kowalski stood on his head for them. We have to pick ourselves up, work on what we didn’t do well and move on. The league isn’t won at this time of year. We have to re-group and get ready for the next game.”
Steelers went on the attack from the off. But spells in the penalty box from Phillips and Steve Birnstill put paid to their spell of pressure. The visitors were further hampered after 10 minutes when Colt King was handed a game penalty for a big hit on Jordan Fox against the boards.
With a couple of power-play opportunities of their own, Steelers finally started to exert some authority, with Luke Fulghum and Jeff Legue going close.
But it was the home side that took the lead two minutes into the second session when Matt Myers bundled the puck over the line from close range.
David Beauregard should have extended the lead a short time later but his shot was cleared off the line.
Jeff Legue and Mike Ramsay combined well for the equaliser six minutes later. Legue took the puck up ice and a perfect pass found Ramsay free to slot home.
After a lengthy delay for repairs to the plexi glass, Panthers regained the lead when a long range shot from Matt Francis beat John Decaro in the Sheffield net.
The Sheffield defence was being stretched by the confident Panthers and conceded another in the 38th minute as Beauregard fired into the roof of the net from close range.
And the game was virtually over when Matt Myers collected the puck from face-off at the start of the final session to make it 4-1. Sheffield had plenty of chances to get back into the game but Panthers’ keeper Craig Kowalski was on top form, making some outstanding saves to keep the Steelers at bay.
A miserable night for the visitors was capped off with three minutes left when Francis beat Decaro to make it another five-goal game for Nottingham.