Steelers snuff out old rivals

Steelers put on the pressure
Steelers put on the pressure
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Steelers shut out arguably the most attack-minded team in the League last night to claim Christmas bragging rights over their near neighbours.

And they did it without much fuss, too.

Having made the most of their own chances they snuffed out any real scoring opportunities for the injury-hit champions.

On a night when the noisiest fan in the almost sold-out Arena was awarded by a bottle of festive bubbly by the club mangement, it was a relatively quiet start on the ice.

Call it nerves, perhaps.

The stakes could hardly have been much higher for Sheffield coach Doug Christiansen and his assistant Marc Lefebvre.

After losing three out of their last four games, the partnership could ill afford a slip-up in the game that matters most in mid-season.

Nottingham started off the day on the same points as their hosts, but have three games in hand, so Christiansen simply could not afford to let Panthers dictate the game.

On the other hand, Panthers’ coach Corey Neilson had his own concerns after his team faltered badly at Hull, going down 7-5.

Neilson had labelled his own side “Team Hollywood” - because he felt they flourished when the going was good, but fell apart when adversity set in.

So it was a cautious start - but an extremely effective one for Steelers.

With Panthers deploying too many men on a rush, Steve Goertzen threaded a delightful pass through to Rob Dowd, who swept the puck past goal Neil Conway at 14.40.

Steelers are a better team whenever Dowd is on the ice.

He’d shot just wide and powered a puck off Conway’s boot before he foraged away for possession on Panthers’ left corner.

His short pass in front of goal was met by Rob Sirianni who scored high past the Irish-American’s glove side, for 2-0, at 32.55.

Jeff Legue - one of Santa’s little helpers all year round - almost made it three and Stefan Meyer back-handed on the outside of the post as Sheffield finished the second period on a high.

It was pleasing to see such a dominating performance. And all Steelers had to focus in the last third of the game was retaining that lead.

They killed two penalties, (Dustin Kohn and Geortzen) and kept Panthers largely to the perimeter.

Frank Doyle, in the home goal, had to save two similar shots from the blue line from Brandon Benedict and Chris Murray. And he went off his line feet-first to deny Joe Jensen.

But for such an offensive team, Nottingham didn’t shoot enough - a weakness Sheffield were happy to accept.

They seem more preoccupied with having a go at Gord Baldwin - presumably a grudge from a previous encounter.

Steelers play the return leg tomorrow at Nottingham.