Welcome to the biggest show in British ice hockey

There is not an ice hockey game in Britain - barring possibly the Play Off final - that gets the pulse racing quite so much.

Friday, 23rd December 2016, 4:02 pm
Updated Saturday, 24th December 2016, 9:30 am
Colton Fretter after scoring at Coventry

A 9.300-fan sell-out, Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers, on Boxing Day.

UK hockey’s biggest rivals both desperate to ruin each other’s festive season...and League season, where possible.

Colton Fretter after scoring at Coventry

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Tensions will run high on the benches, as well as the ice. And Sheffield coach Paul Thompson will feel the heat as much as anyone.

But the veteran of two decades of coaching says he’ll be exhilarated rather than stressed before the big face off.

“It is going to be a full house. These games over Christmas are the biggest fixtures on the calendar” he said.

“I will be anxious to get it going, when you know it is going to be a full barn and the atmosphere is going to be electric... I’ll feel excited rather than nervous.”

Colton Fretter after scoring at Coventry

Steelers have scored 14 goals against Panthers on aggregate in their last two home meetings.

“If you are going to be successful in sport or any walk of life your big players have to turn up and they have done that pretty well against Nottingham so I don’t have any complaints there. We have played well against Nottingham” said the coach. “We have just got to be totally focused.”

Of the general picture, on the trail of league leading Cardiff Devils, Thompson aid: “We have lost 3-2, 3-2, 3-2 the last three games in Cardiff and they have been hell of hockey games.

“We have to be better scoring goals against Cardiff. We have to be better. Their top players are outplaying my players right now. And outscoring my top players right now. It’s as simple as that.”

Panthers have two import goalies to chose from, but that’s not a road Thompson foresees going down; he believes the League has an obligation to give home grown goalies a chance as deputies.

Meanwhile Jesse Schultz, who has been suffering back spasms, is likely to return, said the coach. But it seems he will have lost his slot alongside Mathieu Roy and John Armstrong. Colton Fretter has shown his chemistry with Roy is as good as last season and will retain the berth.

Panther’s games frequently boil over as tempers snap.

But Thompson doesn’t want to see the number of offensive zones penalties given away, as he witnessed in the midweek victories over Coventry Blaze.

Thompson feels his team need to “smarten up” in that regard, saying it was only because of great goaltending and players putting their bodies on the line, that they conceded only once on the penalty kill in the 3-1 success in the Midlands.