RYAN Finnerty had an extra reason to be happy with his Steeler side’s dramatic overtime win over Nottingham Panthers.
Sheffield had to dig deep to stay in Sunday’s game before defenceman Mark Thomas brought the 6,000-plus crowd to their feet with a slapshot which handed the Arena team their first win of the season over their biggest rivals.
Player coach Finnerty was still privately cherishing the win today, not least because he got one over his opposite number and fellow Canadian, Corey Neilson, who he says runs the “self-proclaimed biggest strongest team in the league.”
Finnerty said: “Corey doesn’t like me, I don’t like Corey. We battle. He has made no bones about not liking me in the past and I make no bones about not liking him. I have never said one good thing about him. If that’s what is takes to keep this (Steelers v Panthers) rivalry going, so be it. We are two different guys with different characters who are always going to compete.”
Asked what specifically the pair are at odds over, Finnerty explained: “He doesn’t respect the way I play and I don’t respect the way he plays. It’s pretty clear we battle and it’s only going to be good for the sport. We have a competitive nature, we butt heads.”
Finnerty was also aware of a “We hate Steelers” chant Panthers fans make during the national anthem.
“Panthers fans? They love me so much I don’t want to say something bad about them! I have this vision of fans having a pint before and telling their buddies they are going to make such a difference to the game. They can’t wait to do it.”
Steelers had looked short of confidence in the 0-2 middle period of the game.
But Thomas’ sudden death strike for the eventual 3-2 win settled the issue.
Finnerty said: “It was an awkward break out, really. Jason Hewitt started it by reversing it in our zone and a lot of the guys on our bench thought: ‘What is going on?’
“Then we came slowly up the ice as a unit of four. There were a couple of nice of plays before he (Thomas) hit a nice slapshot. I don’t think I have ever seen him do that in practice!
“You want to see guys like that win a game in overtime, he doesn’t get enough credit for what he does.
“We need to rely on everybody and there wasn’t a better guy to score that goal.”