Nottingham Panthers 2-6 Sheffield Steelers: Aaron Fox's team hang on to top spot

The dog-fight for the Elite League title is not over yet.

Saturday, 22nd February 2020, 9:38 pm
Aerial shot of the Nottingham Panthers v Sheffield Steelers game

Top of the table Steelers snapped a four-game losing streak to beat championship rivals Nottingham 6-2 on the road.

It was a must-win game - and Sheffield did so in style.

While the two points guarantee nothing, it fended off second-place, games-in-hand Cardiff Devils for the time being and coach Aaron Fox can go into the remaining nine games knowing confidence and defensive prowess have returned to his ranks.

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He'd tinkered with his line-up, pre-match.

They started the evening with the unusual partnership of Brendan Connolly and Marco Vallerand with John Armstrong.

Michael Davies centred Anthony DeLuca and Lucas Sandstrom - a line that was to have a sensational evening.

With three minutes on the clock, Davies was called for high-sticking, but Panthers could not punish them.

Davies sprung back into action and was credited with an assist on a goal awarded to Josef Hrabal on a delayed penalty at 6:06.

At 10:11, there was an "Uber for Duba" call, with Tomáš Duba penalised for tripping.

And Nottingham suffered a 2+10 penalty against Jullian Talbot after checking Marco Vallerand to the head, at 10:49.

But the penalty that mattered came against Steelers, with a too many men on the ice call leading to a power play goal from Adam Deutsch, assisted by Georgs Golovkovs and Dylan Malmquist.

DeLuca and Nikolay Lemtyugov both looked promising offensively, with the visitors firing in 11 shots, but the first session ended 1-1.

With a Daniel Fick penalty overlapping the first interval, Steelers took the lead for a second time, Marco Vallerand's wrist shot hitting the net, unassisted, at 20:33.

There was no looking back from this point.

Steelers, with Ben O'Connor back in the side after suspension, made it 3-1 at 28:21, with DeLuca scoring his first point since returning from injury, the result of a speculative effort which goalie Kevin Carr must still be cursing himself about.

They could not benefit further, from a five-on-three power play, but Panthers had no reprieve when Sandstrom made it 4-1 at 38:33.

A 3-0 middle period had been just what the doctor had ordered for Sheffield.

A quick interchange of goals marked the final session with Brendan Connolly and Golovkovs getting both sets of fans off their seats.

Steelers were emphatically in charge though with on-form Sandstrom notching his second of the night (6-2) on 44 minutes - sealing the South Yorkshire side's fourth win of the season in the neighbouring county.