Sheffield Steelers hit cruise control to sink Manchester Storm and set-up Elite Series grand finale against Nottingham Panthers

ALL bar one of the previous five Elite Series encounters between Sheffield Steelers and Manchester Storm had been settled by the odd goal. Last night was different.

EASY DOES IT: Josh Waller shows neat skill to make it 5-1 to Sheffield Steelers, who went on to win 13-7 on aggregate. Picture: Dean Woolley.

The Steelers cruised into the final of the behind-closed-doors tournament in style, hammering Ryan Finnerty’s team 8-3 on the night, giving them a 13-7 aggregate triumph.

Arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers await tomorrow night in the first of a best-of-three-game series which, if it goes the distance, ends on Monday night.

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Defenceman Sam Jones admitted the scoreline on the night came as s surprise but the Steelers’ early intention of scoring early paid off.

Adrian Saxrud Danielson, far right, fires past Sean Bonar in the Storm goal to open the scoring for the Steelers. Picture: Dean Woolley.

“If you’d told us at the start of the night that we were going to win 8-3 I’d have been pretty surprised,” said Jones. “But it was a good game by us. Everyone one came together and played a solid 60 minutes.

“We said from the start that if we could get the first goal we’d be 2-0 up overall and then we’d hold all the cards. So we got that first early one and then we got another one soon after and we just kept going and didn’t really slow down all game.

“It’s good to be in the finals, but there is still a lot of hard work ahead - I think Nottingham have turned it up more towards the end of this series so we’ve got to be ready to go but it is a good feeling to make it to the final.”

The Steelers were three goals ahead on aggregate before 10 minutes had passed, Adrian Saxrud Danielsen getting the scoring underway at 3.15 before 18-year-old Alex Graham doubled the advantage on the night at 9.52.

Youngster Alex Graham celebrates making it 2-0 in the 10th minute. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Manchester’s task got even tougher when Tanner Eberle made the most of a slashing call on defenceman Joe Hazeldine when making it 3-0 and 8-4 overall at 17.28 on the resulting power play.

Manchester gave back-up Stephen Murphy his first action of the tournament when replacing first-choice Sean Bonar in time for the second period and after Steelers’ Sondre Olden was called for hooking, the Storm gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Scott Simmonds backhanded past John Muse on the man advantage at 22.36.

But the Steelers were quick to quash any hopes of a Storm comeback, Olden finding time and space to stroke the puck home at 27.16.

Just under four minutes later, the Steelers had a man over on the left, Josef Hrabal picking out Josh Waller, who showed skilful hands to back-hand over Murphy’s left shoulder.

Sheffield Steelers' goaltenders John Muse, right and Ben Churchfield celebrate after beating Manchester comprehensively. Picture: Dean Woolley.

After Storm reduced the overall deficit to four goals when Tyler Fawcett showed clever movement to fire past Muse on the power play at 48.31, the Steelers again ensured hopes of an unlikely comeback were squashed, adding insult to injury when Brendan Connolly broke down the right before feeding Eberle to fire past Murphy for a shorthanded strike at 50.03.

Fawcett quickly replied on a breakaway for his second of the night within two minutes, but the Steelers piled on further agony for Finnerty and his team with further goals, Sondre Olden making it 7-3 on the night on the power play at 52.47 before Jeremy Beaudry blasted past Murphy from the blue line to make it 13-7 overall.

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