Sheffield Steelers 4-5 Nottingham Panthers

It's great when your team cannot be caught at the top of the league - even if it is in a Covid-enforced, fewer-teams-than-normal, mini-table.

Sunday, 25th April 2021, 10:08 am
Tanner Eberle enjoying scoring against Nottingham. Picture: Dean Woolley

And that was the position on Saturday, even before Sheffield faced Nottingham Panthers

Steelers had pocketed too many points to be caught at the summit of the division.

Job done. Sort of.

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Coach Aaron Fox could even afford to rest Robert Dowd and Kevin Schulze.

Yet it was actually far from plain sailing, with Sheffield conceding a three goal advantage and then losing 4-5 in overtime. That wasn't what a table topping team would have wanted, when it comes to momentum.

At any rate, Sunday sees Sheffield with a dead-rubber against Manchester Storm, and then it is on to the play offs.

On Saturday, the puck was only in play for 12 seconds when Tanner Eberle put Sheffield ahead.

The Sheffield number 10 backhanded another past GB goalie Ben Bowns seven minutes later.

And it was 3-0 when Liam Kirk illustrated the truism that shots on goal can benefit your team.

What could go wrong for the table toppers?

Panthers, on their third power play, got one back at 14:51 Brett Perlini beating Ben Churchfield.

It was the start of a comeback; the host side won the middle period 2-0.

While Liam Kirk fired wide with an excellent chance and Bowns stopped a potential Eberle hat trick, Austin Cangelosi sneaked between two Steelers to score and then Oliver Betteridge exploited Josef Mikyska's attempt to do too much - the Steeler had three assists to his name at that point.

Sadly, the Czech centre surrendered the puck and it was all square.

From Sheffield's perspective, the game had lurched from 3-0 to 3-3. That's not a play off winning formula.

A different type of period was needed from Fox's men.

And Eberle appeared to answer the call, stroking home his hat-trick, just four seconds after Panthers had killed a penalty.

But Alex Graham's check on the boards was penalised for interference, somewhat harshly, and on the power play Nottingham made it 4-4, Dominic Talbot-Tassi finding the net.

Sheffield seemed to be missing Dowd, as an offensive outlet.

And the cutting edge was found by Notts, Christophe Boivin crashing the net 17 seconds to win the game in overtime.