Sheffield Steelers captain fantastic Jonathan Phillips targets one last hurrah in Nottingham
Tied 2-2 from the first leg on Friday, the Steelers went behind early on home ice but came back strong and, once they got themselves in front overall again, there was no looking back.
But Saturday night belonged to their captain Phillips, making his last home appearance following 17 years with the club.
The vast majority of the crowd stayed behind after the game to watch the on-ice celebrations for Phillips, which included the presentation of a commemorative Steelers’ shirt and a car.
“You never ever want to think of your last game here, nearing the end, but what a reception I got,” said Phillips.
“The building was rocking, it was so loud and stepping out to that was amazing.
“This is a place that I’ll look back on with unbelievable memories but it was great that we had a good weekend too and played so well to advance to the final four.
“But there is still hockey to be played and I’m totally focused on the job at hand which is next weekend in Nottingham.”
Having battled back from 2-0 down in the final 10 minutes to ensure the first leg finished all square, Manchester went ahead overall for the first time just over three minutes in when, with Brendan McNally in the box on a tripping call, former Steelers forward Anthony DeLuca fired home from close range on the resulting power play.
But it wasn’t long before the Steelers were level, Scott Allen benefitting from some good work behind the net by Daniel Ciampini to fire home from in front at 7.10.
The Steelers went in ahead at the break when Brett Neumann fired home on the power play into the roof of the net in the 13th minute following a scramble in front of Jeremy Brodeur’s net.
It was in the second period where the Steelers began to take control, extending their lead with another power play strike, this time from Martin Latal,tipping in a Brendan Connolly feed with 28.24 on the board.
The lead was extended to three at 36.01 when Danny Kristo benefitted from a skilful backhand pass from Tomas Pitule to backhand home from right in front.
Hope arrived for the Storm just over five minutes into the third when the puck cannoned past Matt Greenfield off Cole Carter’s right shin.
But any hope of a similar comeback to the previous evening in Altrincham was ended when Kristo doubled his tally at 48.16, tipping in Davey Phillips’s long-range shot.
Afterwards, Phillips ensured fellow forward Brendan Connolly also took a special round of applause from fans, the veteran also playing his last home for the Steelers.