Ice Hockey Report: Sheffield Steelers 0 Nottingham Panthers 8

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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.

Ben O Connor - Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers 23/02/16

Ben O Connor - Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers 23/02/16

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.

Jace Coyle - Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers 23/02/16

Jace Coyle - Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers 23/02/16

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.