IT’S pay-back time for Sheffield Steelers tonight as they aim to complete a few days of misery for Nottingham Panthers.
On Sunday, Sheffield leapfrogged over their rivals into second place to get a clear sight of league leaders Belfast Giants. Panthers were beaten by a single goal on both Saturday and Sunday by Giants.
And a win in regular tonight will see Steelers leave their bogey team trailing three points in their wake.
It is probably fair to say that Sheffield, as a club, was psychologically scarred by previous defeats to Panthers this season.
Of the six matches they have played so far, Nottingham have won five, two of them with clean sheets.
Panthers effectively ruined Christmas for Steelers fans with wins on Boxing Day and December 27, 5-3 and 5-1. So now it’s pay back time.
And the man who will be leading from the front tonight is Ryan Finnerty, who captain Jonathan Phillips says, was responsible for Sunday’s 5-3 won at Blaze.
Finnerty had been sin binned for five minutes of the third period after fighting Slovenian winger Matic Kralj. It was a vantage point from which he saw his team score goals which turned around a 3-1 Blaze advantage to 4-3 Steelers. Whilst he wasn’t on the ice, Phillips believes Finnerty should have been awarded three assists on those goals.
“Ryan sent us all a message and he was as responsible for those three goals as the guys who scored or made them. We weren’t playing well, things weren’t looking good. Coventry had just gone 3-1 up and we were up against it. Something had to change. Some players wait for things to change and some make changes happen. That’s what Ryan did. As soon as I saw him and Kralj talking I knew what was going to happen, Finner’s gloves dropped and he pounded away at Kralj. Finner was punching the Blaze forward yet really he was sending us a message on the Steelers bench that this wasn’t good enough and we had to get going, do whatever it took to win this game.
“The message got through - we responded and took the game to Coventry. We found a stride and swagger that’s been missing recently. That fight of Finner’s got us going now we have to respond again tonight, not for just one period but for all three.”