Hull Pirates keep treble hopes alive but Sheffield Steeldogs reach end of the line

Sheffield and Peterborough battle for puck possession on the boards in Saturday's second semi-final.
Sheffield and Peterborough battle for puck possession on the boards in Saturday's second semi-final.
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HULL PIRATES will look to end an already memorable season on a perfect high after coming-from-behind to beat Bracknell Bees to reach the NIHL Play-off FInal in Coventry.

But while Jason Hewitt's team were left to ponder a possible third trophy of the season, there was to be disappointment for fierce Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Steeldogs, who lost out to Peterborough Phantoms in the second semi-final at the Skydome Arena.

Hull and Bracknell's players shake hands at the end of a hard-fought semi-final.

Hull and Bracknell's players shake hands at the end of a hard-fought semi-final.

Hull will look to add the national play-off title to a haul that already includes the North play-off trophy and the regular season NIHL North One league championship, while they will face a Phantoms side looking to make it four pieces of silverware for the season, having previously lifted the Autumn Cup, South Cup and South Playoff titles.

Player-coach Jason Hewitt - up against former Sheffield Steelers' team-mate Doug Sheppard on the Bracknell bench - needed his players to make it through to the season's grand finale the hard way after going in at the end of the first period 2-0 adrift through goals from Josh Smith and Roman Malinik.

The Pirates hit back with a vengeance in the middle frame, however, Matty Davies opening their account at 23.30 after a scramble around the net, before two in nine seconds from Sonny Karlsson, the first at 25.04, put Hewitt's team in control for the first time.

Passage through to the final was made safe with another quickfire double in the third, Karlsson completing a natural hat-trick at 48.44 followed by Davies’s second of the game 49.42. Bobby Chamberlain then struck a 58th-minute empty-netter to ensure an impressive 6-2 triumph.

Both Hewitt and Steeldogs' player-coach Ben Morgan had spoken before the weekend about their wish to meet each other in the final for one last face-off in what had proved another fierce battle between the two in the north.

And, after 40 minutes against Peterborough, that still looked possible as the Steeldogs went in tied at 4-4 against Slava Koulikov's side. But the game got away from the South Yorkshire side in the third period as the Phantoms raced clear for a 9-4 triumph.

The Steeldogs - missing regular netminder Dmitri Zimozdra through suspension - were ahead after the first period thanks to Adrian Palak's 20th-minute strike, but a frantic second period brought seven goals, Glenn Billing first on the board within a couple of minutes of the restart to equalise before Corey McEwan put Peterborough ahead at 23.24.

Sheffield levelled at 2-2 when Nathan Salem set up Ashley Calvert for a power play strike at 25.56, but parity lasted less than two minutes before the Phantoms regained the lead through Will Weldon at 27.42.

A moment of magic brought Sheffield level again when Milan Kolena skated through the Phantoms zone, going forehand-backhand and pulling move after move before sliding the puck past Jordan Marr for a great solo effort at 31.21.

But it was another power play marker, this time for Peterborough through Martins Susters at 33.31, that saw Morgan's team trailing again, only for Charlie Thompson to level for a third time when he found the top corner.

It wasn't long before the next goal came in the third and, this time, it proved a crucial one, Weldon grabbing his second of the game for what proved to be the game-winning goal.

Try as they might, there was to be no way back for Sheffield this time, a short-handed strike from Billing at 48.04 proving another telling moment before Koulikov's team ensured victory through further strikes from Susters, James Ferrara and Jarvis Hunt.