SHEFFIELD Steelers’ all-conquering run in the Challenge Cup ended with a defeat last night.
Ryan Finnerty’s team, who had cracked in an average of five goals a match in their previous five Cup games were beaten 3-2 in the dead-rubber game at Nottingham Panthers. Yet Steelers had looked good early on.
Within 10 minutes Drew Fata had scored a power play goal, after smart technique featuring Matt Stephenson and Shawn Limpright.
It had been an even period, shaded by Sheffield. The previous three games between the two rivals had been decided by one goal, Sheffield winning 4-3 and 3-2, Panthers winning the other 2-1. So it was no great shock when Panthers broke through and levelled through Eric Werner at 24;59.
And Panthers went on to dominate the middle session, outshooting the visitors 15-4, making Sheffield goalie Geoff Woodhouse easily the busiest man on the ice. The netminder couldn’t stop skipper Bruce Graham putting Panthers ahead at 37;51.
That 2-0 middle period had delivered Notts had a deserved lead going into the third session. And that was extended when centreman Graham got his second, for 3-1. Steelers, who had won eight out of their last nine games, were back in the game soon after with another power play effort this time from Tylor Michel, after ground work from GB pre-Olympic returnees Jonathan Phillips and Jason Hewitt.
At 3-2, Sheffield needed one more to fight back. But ex Steelers netminder Dan Green saved a Hewitt breakaway - as most fans were observing Guy Lepine and Tom Sestito squaring up - and the game was over.
Dan Green 11+4+9=24
Geoff Woolhouse 10+15+12=37