But, when it mattered, it was the Steelers who delivered a message to their Elite League rivals after running out convincing 4-0 winners in front of a sell-out Sheffield Arena.
Prior to their festive encounter, Paul Thompson’s team had generally suffered at the hands of Erhardt Conference rivals Nottingham, Cardiff Devils and Belfast Giants – taking just four points from a possible 20.
Their only conference victory, in fact, was against defending league champions Cardiff back in October when they prevailed 4-0 on home ice and they were able to match that scoreline against a Panthers side who made the short journey up to South Yorkshire on the back of six straight defeats.
Levi Nelson put the Steelers ahead six and a half minutes into the first period with a power play goal after Panthers’ Yann Sauve had been sent to the penalty box for holding.
Despite dominating the shot clock 15-4 through the opening 20 minutes, the Steelers were not able to add to their lead until late in the second period, defenceman Mark Matheson converting with the man advantage in the 36th minute.
Forward John Armstrong further extended the Steelers lead before the second break, hitting the back of the net with just over a minute left in the frame.
To cap a deserved victory for the home side, Mathieu Roy then completed the victory 51.15, firing home his team’s third power play goal of the evening.
Wednesday night brings a return bout betwen the two at the National Ice Centre, with fifth-placed Steelers eyeing another two points to close the gap on the top four of Cardiff, Belfast, Manchester Storm and Guildford Flames.
Boxing Day Elite League results: Braehead Clan 3 Belfast Giants 2, Cardiff Devils 4 Coventry Blaze 3 (SO), Fife Flyers 10 Edinburgh Capitals 1, Guildford Flames 2 Milton Keynes Lightning 0, Manchester Storm 4 Dundee Stars 0, Sheffield Steelers 4 Nottingham Panthers 0.