Elite Series Day 24: Panthers clinch Elite Series title

The return of Elite ice hockey barely caused a ripple after over a year n abeyance due to the pandemic (PHOTO: Dean Woolley)

NOTTINGHAM PANTHERS 5 SHEFFIELD STEELERS 2

(Panthers win the series 2-0)

Austin Cangelosi scored twice to bookend another terrific display as Nottingham Panthers won the Elite Series, beating Sheffield Steelers in two games.

After a disappointing performance on Saturday, watching Steelers fans were looking for a reaction from their team, but it never came as Tim Wallace led his team to their first silverware under him.

It was a deserved victory as Ollie Betteridge lifted the trophy to end a competition that has recaptured the imagination of ice hockey fans up and down the country.

The early stages looked like Panthers were starting as they finished from Saturday’s game one as they enjoyed some good possession and looked a threat as they invaded the Steelers’ zone.

A chance from Robert Lachowicz needed Sheffield netminder John Muse to make a save and it appeared to be a shot across the bows from Tim Wallace’s side.

Needless to say they made the breakthrough after almost three minutes when Brett Perlini pounced on a turnover and plunged to the ice the move the puck forward.

Cangelosi didn’t need asking twice when he took it on and went one on one with Muse, finally forcing the puck into the net after the Steelers goalie blocked the first chance with the pad.

Perlini and Christophe Boivin combined with a chance a few minutes later, but the Panthers’ number nine’s effort was stopped low by Muse.

Steelers just couldn’t spark themselves the life in the opening frame, with a quick snapshot from Liam Kirk flashing over Ben Bowns’ bar.

As the period went on, Wallace’s men were still finding plenty of space in the Steelers zone, with Craig Garrigan’s chance saved then Lewis Hook setting up Lachowicz near the crease, but the latter just couldn’t get a nick on it.

The one criticism you could level at Nottingham was they didn’t score more than the one they got by the end of the period, but if they kept this up, they would get the rewards.

On the other hand, while you could say they hadn’t played that badly, Steelers needed goals and needed to be much sharper in the front of the net.

Bowns made a save from a shot in the first minute while Josef Mikyska looked dangerous as he moved forward, but the shot went wide.

(PHOTO: Panthers Images)

Panthers had to kill a penalty and it was a chance for Steelers to make that pressure count, but despite decent efforts from Robert Dowd and Brendan Connolly, Nottingham’s goal remained unblemished.

It should be said that Wallace’s side remained a threat on the break and one chance went wide when Perlini picked out Kevin Domingue at the back post, but could only shovel it past the post.

A high stick from Jeremy Beaudry gave Panthers a four minute powerplay and the pressure immediately moved down the other end.

Muse had to be on his toes as Nottingham threatened and eventually that pressure paid off with the second goal of the game.

The pass from Matheson to Nick Dineen saw him take a step to the tip of the face off circle and he arrowed his shot into the net on the powerplay.

The task was just that little bit harder for Steelers, although they certainly looked much more dangerous than they’d been, with Tanner Eberle denied on a couple of occasions.

POST GAME REACTION

By the end of the second, you got the feeling the next goal would make the difference as Panthers returned with a two-goal lead and 20 minutes away from possibly taking the Elite Series title.

Steelers finally found a way through early in the third when Mikyska faked a shot, taking Jordan Kelsall out of the equation and as it hit off Bowns, it landed nicely for Dowd, who duly stuck it away.

It served as a reminder that Sheffield were still in this game and as they looked to turn the heat up, they found the Panthers were bearing down.

Their third came with ten to go when Robert Lachowicz won the face off and Lewis Hook reacted quickly when the puck came loose to sweep it past Muse, who was left stunned as the puck flew past him.

Brendan Connolly forced the puck in with five minutes to go as Steelers looked for a lifeline and it looked as though they may have got it as they laid siege in desperation to try and salvage something.

Eventually, the plug was pulled on them as a Panthers attack saw a stray puck come loose for Domingue in the slot to finish low past Muse and effectively seal victory.

It was only when Cangelosi took care of an empty net finish that Nottingham could finally enjoy their victory and achievement over an excellent campaign.

ANALYSIS

Nottingham Panthers did themselves proud with another stoic display to keep Steelers and their dangerous offence players and put themselves in a position to lift the trophy.

The decision to swap Jackson Whistle for Ben Bowns raised a few eyebrows, given the contrasting form between them, but it was a reminder that Bowns is always a man for the big occasion and he played his part.

Steelers were slow in the first period, created very little in that opening frame and whatever hangover there was from Saturday’s display was still there as they struggled to get themselves in tune.

That said, it wasn’t a bad display, but they were stuck in second gear and had Panthers been a bit more ruthless, they could have been a couple more down by that point.

(PHOTO: Dean Woolley)

The Panthers defence knew exactly how to take care of the Steelers attackers again you wonder if the message from Tim Wallace in that regard was simply ‘same again, boys.’

Steelers upped their game in the second period, but you never felt like the Panthers were in any real danger of seeing the game snatched away from them.

They were a team that had suffered a difficult start and have steadily grown in this competition and the fact they’ve beaten Aaron Fox’s men four times in a row is a reflection of that.

Now they have something shiny to enjoy for their efforts.  And rightly so.

SHOTS ON GOAL: Panthers 20 Steelers 36

GOALSCORERS:

Panthers – Austin Cangelosi (02:44 – Griffiths); Nick Dineen (29:10 – Matheson, Cangelosi PP); Lewis Hook (49:53 – Lachowicz); Kevin Domingue (57:56 – Boivin, Perlini); Austin Cangelosi (59:20 – Dineen, Matheson)

Steelers – Robert Dowd (41:57 – Mikyska, Beaudry); Brendan Connolly (55:17 – Myers PP)

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