Challenge Cup double sees Sheffield Steelers extend unbeaten start

BATTLE_SCARRED: Luke Ferrara took a blow to the face during Sunday night's thrilling 7-5 win against Nottingham Panthers. Picture: Dean Woolley.
BATTLE_SCARRED: Luke Ferrara took a blow to the face during Sunday night's thrilling 7-5 win against Nottingham Panthers. Picture: Dean Woolley.
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IT MIGHT have been edgy, it might have been tight but Sheffield Steelers maintained an unbeaten start to their domestic campaign with a Challenge Cup double.

After edging out Coventry Blaze 4-3 at the SkyDome Arena on Saturday night, even better was to come 24 hours later when they deprived fiercest rivals Nottingham Panthers in a 7-5 thriller.

BREATHING SPACE: Mathieu Roy (hidden) scores Steelers' seventh goal against Nottingham. Picture: Dean Woolley.

BREATHING SPACE: Mathieu Roy (hidden) scores Steelers' seventh goal against Nottingham. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Panthers jumped into a 2-0 lead through Ollie Betteridge and Alex Nikiforuk within four minutes, but the hosts pulled level around the 13th minute mark thanks to strikes within six seconds of each other from Levi Nelson and Colton Fretter.

The Steelers were 4-2 ahead by the 36th minute after Jon Phillips and Ben O’Connor got on the scoresheet, although the Panthers made it a one-goal game through Alex Nikiforuk at 38.42.

It became 4-4 early in the third after Erik Lindhagen’s strike, but Andreas Valdix restored Steelers’ lead at 44.42 with a wrist-shot from out wide. Further goals from Fretter (45.58) and Mathieu Roy (47.05) gave the Steelers some welcome breathing space, Betteridge causing mild alarm for the home fans when he hit back to make it 7-5 with just under seven minutes remaining.

On Saturday, Steelers sprang into a 2-0 first-period lead through Luke Ferrara and Jesse Schultz, Marc Cantin halving the deficit at 18.05.

TOE-TO-TOE: Guillaume Desbiens, right, and Nottingham's Chris Lawrence, exchange a few words. Picture: Dean Woolley.

TOE-TO-TOE: Guillaume Desbiens, right, and Nottingham's Chris Lawrence, exchange a few words. Picture: Dean Woolley.

A second arrived for Schultz on the powerplay at 23.26, although Liam Stewart’s 37th-minute reply ensured it was tight going into the third.

It became even tighter when hosts Blaze levelled on the powerplay through Darcy Zajac at 45.09, but Roy scored from close range with just 10 minutes remaining to secure both points.

“I don’t want to sound arrogant but I thought the five flattered Nottingham a bit,” said Steelers’ head coach Paul Thompson.

“We gave them two or three goals and we’ve got to tighten up there but, offensively, we put on a show there tonight and we didn’t let them breathe and we suffocated them in the neutral zone and the powerplay was clicking and we were dominant, very very dominant.

“And that was against a very good hockey club and I’m very pleased and proud of the way the boys played and the energy they played with after such a tough game in Coventry the night before.”