Sheffield Steelers 2 Nottingham Panthers 1: First blood to Steelers in festive double header

SHEFFIELD STEELERS moved up to second in the Elite League standings after edging out fierce rivals Nottingham Panthers in the first part of their seasonal double-header.

TIGHT DUEL: Sheffield Steelers' Jeff Legue, right, faces off against Nottingham's Chris Lawrence, a former Steelers' team-mate, on Boxing Day. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Paul Thompson’s team came from behind to take both points through goals from Rod Sarich and Robert Dowd.

A sellout of more than 9,000 fans packed into the Sheffield Arena, the majority of which eventually going home happy.

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The game wasn’t a classic and, despite the build-up and importance, was for large parts quite subdued.

But, ultimately, the result was all that mattered and it was enough to send Steelers - who welcomed back captain Jonathan Phillips from injury - above Nottingham by one point.

Read Jonathan Phillips’s latest exclusive blog HEREThey still remain four points adrift of leaders Cardiff, who maintained their lofty position after trouncing an inconsistent Coventry Blaze 7-2.

In South Yorkshire, chances were hard to come by throughout and it was the visitors who took an early lead when David Ling set up a chance for Logan MacMillan to score at 7.38.

That was how it stayed until a touch of class from Sarich levelled matters at 15.57, weaving his way through the Panthers’ defence before firing in from a tight angle and somehow squeezing the puck through former Steelers’ No 2 Dan Green at his near post.

LEADER: Jonathan Phillips, back in action for Sheffield Steelers against Nottingham Panthers on Boxing Day. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Little more came by way of clear chances and the spark needed to light up the game was largely being snuffed out by solid defence from both teams.

But the crucial breakthrough came shortly before the second interval and, fortunately for the majority of the crowd, it came for the home side.

A short period of Steelers pressure eventually told when, with Nottingham’s Geoff Waugh in the penalty box on a hooking call, Tyler Mosienko and Jace Coyle set up Dowd to fire a rasping shot from 15 yards out past a stranded Green at 36.08.

That was how it stayed, although Steelers’ fans hearts were in their mouths when Evan Mosey skated the length of the ice to leave himself with just Steelers’ goalie Marek Pinc to beat, only to be denied. In the ensuing scramble, Colton Fretter then threw himself in the way of MacMillan’s follow-up shot when it seemed a certain goal.

It helped to secure a vital two points for the Steelers in the defence of their regular season title and they now make the short trip down the M1 on Sunday to do it all again with same opponents at the National Ice Centre.