By Kris Smith
Game 2:  Nottingham Panthers 5 V 2 Sheffield Steelers 
(Nottingham Win Series 2-0)
The Panthers completed a great comeback story after they were rooted to the foot of the standings for most of the series but climbed into the third seeded position for the playoffs.
After beating the Coventry Blaze in both legs of the Semi-Finals, they were set to face their biggest rivals, Sheffield Steelers and swept the league-leaders in the first two game of the Final.
The opening goal of Game 2 took less than three minutes to be scored and it was the start that Nottingham wanted.
As Sheffield’s Jason Hewitt tried to send a pass out of his own end, a diving-block by Nottingham’s Owen Griffiths sent the puck back in behind the defence and the trailing Austin Cangelosi quickly grabbed the puck and headed goalward.
Cangelosi worked the puck from right to left multiple times in an attempt to open space up either side of John Muse in the Steelers net and he was successful, as he brought the puck back to his forehand and slid a shot under the right leg of Muse.
By the end of the first period, the Panthers still held a one-goal lead and the next goal also went the way of Nottinghamshire club, with Nick Dineen doubling their lead on 29 minutes with a rising shot from the top of the left circle.
The goal was scored on the powerplay as the Steelers were getting to the end of a long four-minute penalty kill, with Jeremy Beaudry sitting in the sin bin for a high-sticking double minor.
It would be the third period before Sheffield got off the mark and if they wanted to force a Game 3, then they needed to find two goals quickly, which they almost did.
Robert Dowd gave Aaron Fox’s men the start to the final session they were looking for after Ben Bowns stopped the long-range shot of Josef Mikyska, but allowed the rebound to trickle past him and towards the left post for Dowd to tap home on 42 minutes.
However, the next goal would most likely decide the winner of the match and eight minutes later, it was scored by Lewis Hook of the Panthers.
Following an icing by Sheffield, the face-off in the Steelers end allowed Robert Lachowicz to win the puck and Hook who was waiting on the right side of the left circle, was able to move in and shoot the puck straight away.
The quick attempt caught Muse off-guard and as it went low under his legs, the Canadian keeper could not drop fast enough and the puck slid into the back of the net, in the 50th minute.
Despite another blow to their hopes of making a comeback, Sheffield mustered up another response to make it 3-2 after 55 minutes.
The Steelers were on a powerplay and in the build-up to the goal, both Brendan Connolly and Matthew Myers failed to connect with the puck on their close-range shot attempts but as the puck gingerly moved towards Bowns, Connolly got to the back post to jam it home.
Just as Tim Wallace’s men came under pressure again, they stepped up and again restored their two-goal cushion in the final minutes of the match.
Kevin Domingue basically confirmed that his side would be Elite Series Champions when he fired home a loose puck that had popped out from the net front battle and his low shot was just out of reach of the diving netminder.
The man who opened the scoring then closed it out with a last-minute empty net goal to make it 5-2, as Cangelosi found the vacant Steelers goal from his own end.
The final buzzer started the Panthers celebrations and they completed their underdog comeback.
(Banner Picture: Dean Wooley)