Sheffield Steelers head coach left with ‘bad taste in mouth’ after Nottingham Panthers loss

The burning ice hockey question might never be fully answered.

Monday, 3rd May 2021, 11:26 am

How was it that an explosive offensive team, that dwarfed all their competitors across a dozen regular League games in scoring, suddenly lost their offensive touch in the two Play Off matches that mattered most?

Sheffield Steelers had topped the seeding group with 60 goals in a dozen games, 17 more than the nearest competitor.

But in the two win-or-bust Play Off finals against Nottingham Panthers, they managed to hit the back of the net three times in the first game and only twice in the second - losing 3-5 and 2-5 on consecutive nights.

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On Sunday, Steelers had powered in 36 shots, almost double those produced by Panthers.

On the previous night, they'd outshot Nottingham 39-29.

The Star asked Sheffield coach Aaron Fox whether Nottingham's astute, nullifying game plan, a lack of offensive execution or just plain bad luck was responsible for the goals drying up.

Fox said it was possible that it was all of those factors conspired together.

Nottingham Panthers: champions. Pic: Dean Woolley

And quality Panthers' goaltending played a part too.

"We had three shots in the first period (Sunday) and that's absolutely not good enough," he said.

"To be fair we only gave up seven. Am I disappointed the way we started? Yeah. Did I let the boys have it? Yeah."

The coach added: "As a player if you are not getting the chances you start to worry.

Not a night for the scorers. Pic Dean Woolley

"I don't think we created fewer chances than we did when we scored five six or seven. Some nights there is a human element involved.

"(Nottingham goalies) Ben Bowns and Jackson Whistle made almost the exact same save with three minutes to go (in both Final games.)

"They got some hot goaltending and there's not much you can do about that, some nights.

"I have to give credit where it's due."

Fed up Foxy Pic Dean Woolley

He said Nottingham grew into the tournament and did a better job at limiting opportunities in their own zone.

"Tim (Wallace, Panthers coach) did a really good job with that, he found some match-ups that he liked and had some success with.

"They are a good face off team, that (Austin) Cangelosi is nasty in the face off circle and they used him at key moments and he did a really good job."

Fox admitted the manner of defeat had left a "bad taste in mouth."

He summed up: "We just didn't find the goals on the weekend."