Agony for Sheffield Steelers as they come up short against Nottingham Panthers in Elite Series final

HAVING come through the group stage and the semi-finals of the Elite Series comfortably the best team, Sheffield Steelers came up short when it mattered most in the final.

TOUGH NIGHT: Brendan Connolly's frustration boils over as he grapples with Panthers' defenceman, Mark Matheson. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Going into what for UK ice hockey is a unique best-of-three format against arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers, the Steelers were unable to take the series to a third game, last night’s 5-2 defeat at the National Ice Centre coming just 24 hours after they suffered a 5-3 loss at the hands of Tim Wallace’s impressive team.

But, on the whole, the behind-closed-doors tournament has served its main purpose of getting the game’s top-end British players into the best possible shape they can be for the World Championships in Riga, Latvia, that get underway later this month.

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After an extra day of rest than they would have liked, seven of the hastily-assembled Steelers’ roster will join up with Great Britain head coach Pete Russell at the national team’s training camp before flying out to complete their preparations for their daunting Group A opening game against Russia.

Nottingham Panthers celebrate winning the Elite Series. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Buoyed by their triumph the night before, the Panthers came out strong in a noticeably more physical opening period than the previous night as the Steelers tried to assert themselves.

Austin Cangelosi piled further pressure on Aaron Fox’s players, however, when he slotted home with just 2.44 gone and put Nottingham ahead, in a period which they largely controlled, limiting the Steelers to just three shots on goal.

The Steelers created more offence in the second but found themselves 2-0 down just before the halfway mark when Nick Deneen pounced with defenceman Jérémy Beaudry sitting a double minor for an accidental high stick

Robert Dowd gave the Steelers hope early in the third when he pounced to poke the puck home at the far post to make it a one-goal game again, but Lewis Hook’s shot off the draw went straight through John Muse with just over 10 minutes to play to leave Fox’s team reeling.

Brendan Connolly gave his team hope when he made it 3-2 at 55. 17 but, as the Steelers pushed for an equaliser, Kevin Domingue made it 4-2 at 57.56, before Austin Cangelosi made things safe with an empty net strike.