Steelers begin preparations for Panthers

SHEFFIELD STEELERS will make the most of a short rest period before preparing for their festive double-header against Nottingham Panthers next week.

Ben Simon's side will go into the Boxing Day clash at Sheffield Arena slightly ahead of the Panthers in the table after securing a 3-0 win at bottom club Newcastle Vipers on Saturday night.

The breakthrough did not come until the third and final period, however, as Danny Stewart's team proved to be a tough obstacle.

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Defenceman Mark Thomas opened the scoring for the Steelers at 44.04 and that's how it looked like staying until Joey Talbot – returning from a brief layoff due to concussion – doubled the visitors' advatnage at 58.33.

As the Vipers pulled goaltender Charlie Effinger in an attempt to claw their way back, Neil Clark fired into an empty net with 19 seconds remaining.

"It was great to have both Talbot and (Jeff) Legue back in the line up," said Simon.

"Jeff had been out for a very long time (broken finger), but looked very comfortable during the game.

"It was very important to go into the holiday on a winning note, and we will enjoy some well-deserved rest.

"After a couple days off, we will be back on the ice gearing up for Boxing Day."

Hull Stingrays' 2-0 home defeat to Coventry Blaze ensured they will finish bottom of Group B in the Challenge Cup.

With neither side able to proggress, goals from Aaron Nell and Luke Fulghum were enough to ensure Coventry finished above their rivals.

Player-coach Sylvain Cloutier will now begin preparing his side for Wednesday night's visit to South Wales, their first return to the scene of their 12-0 televised humiliation at the hands of the Cardiff Devils.

GREAT BRITAIN Under-20s ensured they came home from the World Championships Division One tournament in Belarus with a bronze medal after a 3-1 victory over Japan yesterday.

Sheffield Steelers' forward Tom Squires was on the scoresheet, along with Nathan Salem and Jack Prince, while Sheffield Steeldogs' netminder ben Bowns produced another impressive performance at the other end of the ice.