Steelers v Panthers’ games have played a massive part of Sheffield’s 25 year history - and this game was as good as pretty much any of them.
Sheffield came back from 2-0 down to play some of their best attacking hockey so far this season - while also conceding some pretty dire goals.
In that sense, this Challenge Cup group game was reminiscent of some of the earlier days in the South Yorkshire club’s history.
Both sides had made errors in the pressure-cooker atmosphere but Nottingham exploited their early chances. The visitors cycled the puck before Ollie Betteridge shot home at 2;55 and Alex Nikiforuk added a second at 3;50. It could have got even uglier with Chris Lawrence squeezing ahead of Guillaume Desbiens for a chance and Panthers seemingly inviting mistakes from the home side.
Steelers piled up the physical pressure throwing three hits on Robert Farmer in 15 seconds. And when Erik Lindhagen tripped Markus Nilsson on the Power Play, Levi Nelson re-directed an Andreas Valdix’s shot for 1-2. The big Arena crowd had to wait only seven seconds for an equaliser - Colton Fretter’s first goal of the season.
Steelers were firing on all cylinders, and only a broken stick robbed John Armstrong in a goal-line tussle with Czech netminder Jindrich Pacl.
Sheffield goalie Ervins Mustukovs had the jitters in the middle session, but his giveaway was not punished by Logan Macmillan.
Nikiforuk, a tiny but highly effective forward, was hit in the head by a Tyler Mosienko shot and Panthers’ energy dipped as Sheffield dominated, striking home two goals in four minutes.
Jonathan Phillips wriggled down the right and tucked the puck home at 29;30 and a rink length move ended with Ben O’Connor scoring for 4-2.
But with 78 seconds of the period left Nikiforuk showed his value to Panthers by getting his second of the night.
Nottingham, who enjoyed a 2-0 shut out of over Cardiff Devils 24 hours earlier, were back in it when they levelled through Lindhagen, who skated route one through the home defence.
The game was completely open with virtually any score possible.
Valdix rifled in the goal of the game from the left boards at 44;42 and Steelers made it six when Fretter circled the goal and back-handed over a struggling Pack. His drought is well and truly over.
When Roy made it 7-4 that was it for the seemingly injured goalie, who was withdrawn. For a while, Steelers put on an offensive clinic, playing with freedom and panache.
But Betteridge’s fifth Panthers goal reinforced the need for some resolute defensive work.
n On Saturday, Steelers ground out their first away win of the season, 4-3 at Coventry Blaze, where Jesse Schultz illustrated his newly found form with a brace, with others from Luke Ferrara and Mathieu Roy.
Roy scored the winner with 10 minutes left.
Sunday 18th September
Cardiff Devils 6 Fife Flyers 1
Challenge Cup Group A
Dundee Stars 3 Belfast Giants 5
Edinburgh Capitals 3 Braehead Clan 2 (OT)
Challenge Cup Group B
Manchester Storm 3 Coventry Blaze 1
Sheffield Steelers 7 Nottingham Panthers 5