SHEFFIELD, U.K. – The Sheffield Steelers ensured their place in the Challenge Cup Final against fierce rivals and current EIHL leaders the Nottingham Panthers, after a 4-2 win on home ice last night, to win 8-4 on aggregate.
The Steelers were without the influential duo of Steven Goertzen (hand injury) and Shawn Limpright (wife giving birth), meaning a shuffle in the pack of the South Yorkshire side’s lines.
The Steelers came out flat in front of a strong crowd, and were under the cosh right away as centreman Jordan Krestanovich netted for the visitors from close range to give his side a 1-0 lead at 6:21 reducing the aggregate arrears to one.
The Clan almost doubled their lead in the ninth minute with recent addition Matt Schepke threatening with a good wristshot on John Decaro’s goal.
The Steelers pressed and came close with a shorthanded opportunity in the sixteenth minute with Clan defenceman Steven Birnstill blocking a Simon Ferguson shot, which was goal bound.
Sheffield were gifted a 5-on-3 powerplay in the closing stages of the opening period, but failed to capitalise on the advantage after some pretty poor passing and not shooting enough on Clan netminder Daren Machesney.
The Clan came out strongly once again for the second period and took a two goal lead thanks to a great goal from Captain Ash Goldie who did a spin-o-rama and then fired a blistering wristshot top shelf glove side past DeCaro leaving the Steelers fans shell-shocked at 21:11.
With the aggregate score on level terms, the Steelers were feeling the pressure, and a mistake from Rod Sarich on his own blueline almost gifted the visitors another goal.
The hosts pressed and almost got on the scoresheet when Jeff Legue forced a good save from Machesney after his backhanded attempt came close at 27:32.
At 31:31 the Steelers broke their duck with Captain Jonathan Phillips dispatching a shot from the slot off the post low past Machesney in the Clan goal, reducing the deficit to one.
Despite the Steelers outshooting the Clan in the second period by 16-6, Jonathan Phillips was the only player to get on the scoresheet.
Three goals in the final ten minutes of the game for the hosts gave them some much-needed breathing room and secured them the place in the coveted Challenge Cup Final.
Firstly British forward Lee Esders recovered from taking a slapshot in the ribs to moments earlier equalise for his team at 52:59 with a nice top shelf finish blocker side past Machesney, making it 2-2 on the night and 6-4 on aggregate to the Steelers.
Then the Steelers took the lead for the first time in the game with Ashley Tait being on hand to tap home a close range rebound after an initial Jeff Legue shot at 54:04 to make it 3-2.
Steelers fan favourite Tylor Michel added the final nail to the Clan coffin with a neat shorthanded goal as he fired high past Machesney glove side with a sublime finish to make it 4-2 on the night and 8-4 on aggregate to his team, with just over 3 minutes remaining in the game.
The clock ticked away ensuring Sheffield took the win and booked their place in the Challenge Cup Final against old foes the Nottingham Panthers who they play on Sa
turday (9th March) in league action.
Steelers Head Coach Ryan Finnerty offered his thoughts after the game “We showed some character tonight. I think we also saw what a big part of our club Steven Goertzen and Shawn Limpright are. Without them this evening we had to move all three lines around,” Finnerty con
“I think we took time to settle, we didn’t play great in the first period but even 1-0 down I wasn’t too concerned. Yes, we all got a little nervous at 2-0 and we tightened up a bit for a few shifts afterwards. We settled down though and took the game to Braehead, we knew with the line up
we had it wouldn’t be pretty goals but hard working, determination goals that would get us through,” Finnerty added.
“We look forward to the fi
nal and the series with Nottingham. I think it’s the final that both we and the Panthers wanted,” Finnerty concluded.
The Steelers will host the first leg of the Final against the Panthers on Wednesday 20th March, a game which now has added importance as Sheffield are effectively out of the running for the EIHL title.
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