Steelers boost title dream by taming hosts Panthers
The Steelers’ head coach described his team’s performance at the National Ice Centre on Saturday night as “unbelievable” after they came from behind to record a first win of the season at the home of their arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers.
The 3-2 triumph - courtesy of goals from Ben O’Connor, Mathieu Roy and Tomas Petruska - coupled with a 3-0 defeat for league leaders Braehead Clan at home to Cardiff Devils - has put the Steelers back in control of their own destiny.
They now lie one point behind Braehead, with a game in hand and a pivotal last meeting of the regular season between the two in Sheffield on March 4.
A 4-2 win for third-placed Cardiff Devils at Dundee Stars last night leaves them two points behind Steelers, with Nottingham now four points adrift of their South Yorkshire rivals.
“The boys played unbelievable, they deserved it and I thought we were the better team,” said Adams.
“We wanted it and we need to play like that, especially going down the stretch. If we want to win the Challenge Cup, if we want to win the league title, if we want to win the play-offs, you have to beat Nottingham and you have to beat them in their rink.
“This win was a good mental push for us.”
In front of a packed NIC, it was the home side who struck first, former Hull Stingrays forward Guillaume Doucet scoring unassisted to break the deadlock at 26.32 after a goalless opening period.
That is how it stayed until a penalty call on Chris Higgins for holding presented Steelers with an opportunity, Roy setting up British defenceman Ben O’Connor to fire past Mattias Modi at 34.45.
The Panthers were given a chance to benefit from the powerplay when Jason Hewitt was called for elbowing in the 38th minute, but Roy stunned the home support when he broke to score short-handed for a 2-1 lead with just 30 seconds of the period remaining.
As expected, the Panthers came roaring back and their pressure eventually told when Greg Jacina levelled at 47.23.
Powerplay opportunities came and went for both sides and it looked like overtime would be required. But with Bryan Schmidt in the penalty box for boarding, Steelers got their man advantage working again, this time Petruska the being the beneficiary with his fifth goal in eight games since arriving from Slovakia guaranteeing a memorable - and positively pivotal - victory
While full of praise for his entire roster afterwards, Adams singled out the talismanic Roy for praise after a man-of-the-match performance.
The 28-year-old Canadian has been a revelation this season for the Steelers, leading the league scoring with 30 goals and 43 assists in 50 games.
“I think he’s one of the best if not the best player in our league,” said Adams.
“He’s a tremendous person, a tremendous player and I’ll say it over and over again - we are very fortunate he is on our team.”