Playing your main rivals in iceSheffield’s cramped surrounds is like holding your 21st birthday party in a phone box.
Steelers couldn’t agree a date with Panthers for the Challenge Cup semi final to be held at Sheffield Arena. But it wasn’t that fact which ruined the party. It was the invited guests - who turned out to be just too good.
Putting aside injury and illness, the ‘home’ side was an embarrassment. A pallid portrayal of a team that can win at Belfast and Cardiff but can be over-run on their own ice. Forwards lacked firepower. Defencemen were obliging. Goaltending reached a new low.
Steelers, who dumped Panthers out of the Cup last season, were six down before they started trying.
Barring a scoreline of inconceivable proportions in the second leg, Nottingham will face Cardiff in the final.
Evan Mosey triggered the onslaught, darting through the centre of a napping defence at 6;04. Robert Farmer almost doubled the lead tipping wide and a Marek Pinc giveaway almost ended up in his net.
Sheffield depend on Ben O’Connor’s creativity, but some of his passing was going awry and he was muscled off the puck in centre ice, leading to a Matthew Myers goal at 14;41.
A minute later they were caught two-on-one, top scorer Juraj Kolnik sweeping home for a 0-3 lead.
Paul Thompson called a Time Out - he had a defence that was caving in and an attack that was meek at best.
Steelers had been outplayed in key areas and it happened again at 25:10 when they lost a battle in their own zone and David Clarke lashed home.
Panthers’ work-rate was unmatchable. With new signings Kevin Quick and Franklin MacDonald at the back, you had to fancy their chances of holding on to a four goal lead.
Worse was to come. Cam Janssen rubbed in Notts’ superiority by hammering past Pinc - who was promptly hooked to spare further embrassment.
Second-string goalie Brad Day came on and was promptly beaten by a power shot Brad Moran at 30:26 .
There was no irony intended when the DJ played the Pat Benatar classic “Hit me with your best shot” - but it wasn’t the most appropriate tune to put on.
Could anything be salvaged in the third period?
It was good to see Day getting some ice-time, although Kolnik’s second of the night was another painful moment. As was Andy Bohmbach’s final near post goal..
“We want one” chanted the Sheffield crowd - at least a gallows humour existed in the stands.
There certainly wasn’t much else to smile about.