Steelers reined in by title rivals

IN an ideal world, Sheffield Steelers would have picked up more than just the one point out of a possible four from their traditional Christmas double header against arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers.

NO IMPRESSED: Sheffield Steelers' head coach Gerad Adams was unhappy with some of the calls at the National Ice Centre. Picture: Dean Woolley.

But despite the poor return, Gerad Adams’s team still emerged from the weekend top of the Elite League, albeit their lead over second-placed Braehead Clan cut to just a single point after Ryan Finnerty’s team earned a 5-2 home win over fourth-placed Belfast Giants, who had thrashed them 6-1 in Northern Ireland the previous night.

Cardiff Devils moved up to third in the standings above Belfast, following a festive double over struggling Coventry Blaze, who returned to the bottom two after Hull’s double over Edinburgh Capitals.

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Nottingham remain six points adrift of the Steelers with a game in hand.

Having gone into Saturday night’s rematch against the Panthers at the National Ice Centre on the back of a 4-0 Boxing Day defeat on home ice – where they had set a league record attendance of 8,864 – the Steelers could not have got off to a better start.

The visitors got themselves 2-0 ahead through Colton Fretter’s fourth-minute opener and a 10th goal of the season for British forward Robert Dowd just under two minutes later.

Gradually the Panthers got themselves back into the game, halving the deficit in the 26th minute through Chris Lawrence and, just as it looked as though Steelers would wipe out the previous night’s disappointment, levelling with just 83 seconds remaining through Charles Landry.

As overtime beckoned, Mike Forney was sent to the penalty box by the officials on a hooking call and, just 38 seconds into the extra period, Lawrence made the man advantage work to clinch the extra point for Panthers.

Adams was left fuming afterwards for what he labelled “joke” officiating, while also acknowledging his team needs to start scoring more goals after missing several good opportunities to put the game beyond the reach of Nottingham.

“We played more than well enough to win that hockey game, but I felt they played well enough to win too - it was a great game,” said Adams, whose team face Belfast on Friday for the first of two meetings in as many nights at the Odyssey Arena.

“I felt we were in control and it is a shame that the only difference in the game was the reffing. There is a third party on that ice and it is poor.”

When asked about the late call on Forney, Adams added: “They let things go all game and then they call a marginal one (like that) with six seconds to go. It’s a joke.

“We just need to get some scoring and for some guys to pick it up in the goals department.”