Why Aaron Fox knew veteran would be the hero for Sheffield Steelers against Nottingham Panthers

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Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

In a team fizzing with new talent, Sheffield Steelers relied on old warhorse Brendan Connolly to win their first league match of the season against Nottingham Panthers.

At 2-2, the game had gone to penalty shots and Connolly had missed one - in common with 12 other shooters from either side.

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But the 37-year-old was up for taking another and beat goalie Alex Dubeau to wrap up two points.

Brendan Connolly scores the winner for Sheffield Steelers against Nottingham Panthers. Pic: Dean WoolleyBrendan Connolly scores the winner for Sheffield Steelers against Nottingham Panthers. Pic: Dean Woolley
Brendan Connolly scores the winner for Sheffield Steelers against Nottingham Panthers. Pic: Dean Woolley

Steelers had probably been one penalty shot miss away from losing their second consecutive home match - such was the pressure on the veteran's shoulders. But Aaron Fox was confident his man would prevail.

"Conns has taken a lot of penalty shots for me in my time here and he has been very successful. I just had a gut feeling that he was going to pop one."

His hunch paid off. Prior to the game, Panthers' Matt Myers, with refreshing honesty, had said his team had been playing "absolute rubbish hockey" lately yet they matched Sheffield stride for stride in a goalless first period.

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Play was interrupted after 95 seconds when Nottingham's Duggie Lagrone tumbled awkwardly behind the goal and appeared to have been KO'd.

The 7,631 crowd collectively held its breath for Lagrone, who suffered concussion problems in October.

The fans stood as one to applaud him as the Texan disappeared on a stretcher to the changing room. Sheffield coach Fox later called it a "scary moment."

The game, understandably, lacked rhythm after that incident. Quality chances were limited. The best fell to Steelers on the penalty kill when Daniel Ciampini hunted down the puck and fed Brett Neumann, whose shot flew inches wide.

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Kelly Summer burst through the high slot to power a shot over the plexi, via Matt Greenfield's stick. Danny Kristo broke the deadlock with a low shot from short range a minute into the second period.

And the home side extended their advantage with a rocket from Sebastien Piche 82 seconds later. The defenceman then left his mark on Mathieu Gagnon with a heavy mid ice hit.

Sheffield were dominating, Brandon Whistle hit both bar and post. But they were caught when Brett Welychka, Nottingham's biggest threat, gave the visitors hope with a rebound goal just before the second interval.

While Sheffield had the lion's share of the puck, they hadn't finished off their rivals. And hearts were in mouths on two occasions when Greenfield didn't clear the puck cleanly from behind his goal and Jeremy Welsh blasted one just over his bar.

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Panthers' fans upped their volume and with 51 seconds left it was 6-on-4 for their side with Greenfield receiving a delay the game penalty.

The 2-2 equaliser came with five seconds left, from Summer from the blueline.

In the acres of space that overtime brings, both teams had a bucket-load of chances, but the match went to a shootout.

It was left to the old warhorse to gallop off with both points.

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Meanwhile, Former Steeler Liam Kirk, who has been reassigned from Tucson Roadrunners down to the ECHL team Atlanta Gladiators scored two goals for the Duluth, Georgia team against South Carolina Stingrays on Friday.

The Maltby man and ex-Steeler Eric Neiley scored penalty shot goals against the same side in another win on Saturday.