THE KLAXON that ended last night’s Challenge Cup Final was music to the ears of no one that shares an affection for Sheffield Steelers.
Not because the second leg of the competition had ended in a 5-3 aggregate defeat despite the bravest of displays last night.
Nor the fact the overall loss handed the double to Nottingham Panthers.
Nor even because it ended Steelers’ pot-less season, while their rivals march towards a possible treble.
But more because the hooter sounded the death knell to the careers of many attached to this proud club.
On March 19, we revealed coach Ryan Finnerty was walking a career tightrope. Win nothing and your contract won’t be renewed: that was the message.
The Star has heard nothing to suggest that was a random, fleeting thought from owner Tony Smith.
The fact Finnerty was unable to run the bench last night because of a ban for abusing a ref didn’t strengthen his case.
Yet a packed NIC - and Finnerty stood by the Zamboni gate - saw there was still character in this Sheffield team.
The first period was physical with players like Jordan Fox throwing their weight around until he was checked to the head by Chris Frank, who got a 10+2 for his troubles.
Frank joined Rod Sarich in the box, so Steelers had to withstand a 5-on-3 PP.
That kill changed the momentum and Lee Esders nipped down the centre and slipped the puck under Craig Kowalski.
If that put the jitters up the home fans, imagine how they felt when Steve Goertzen added another.
At 4-3 on aggregate next goal was going to be vital - sadly it went to Bruce Graham, a wrap-around on the PP with Esders serving a debatable minor.
Yet Goertzen could still have had a second before the second interval - nobody was giving up on this.
We were watching a superb effort, especially considering forward Simon Ferguson had to leave the ice through what a serious injury after a hit from Fox.
And the team’s commitment was certainly mirrored by the away support, who were vocal and enthusiastic.
Chances were spread evenly at both ends during this night of high drama; including a Sheffield ‘goal’ waived off by ref Tom Darnell.
There was a vigour and pride in the shirt we haven’t seen through all of this season from Sheffield.
But it wasn’t enough; and Notts collecting the trophy for a fourth year running.
On this night the old addage: “A win is a win” - had a decidely false ring to it.