It was a tale of two goalkeepers as the Nottingham Panthers put five past the lacklustre Sheffield Steelers to claim the Elite Series trophy on Sunday night.
A string of fine saves from Panthers netminder Ben Bowns put the team from Nottingham well on their way to a historic victory and second ever Elite Series title, after winning the first game in the tie 1-0 on Saturday night.
The match, which took place at the National Ice Centre in Nottingham, brought to a close a strange yet captivating season where fans across the nation were sorely missed.
Two goals from American forwards Austin Cangelosi and Nick Dineen put the Panthers in a promising position in the tie, with the goals coming either side of a 2+2 penalty for Jérémy Beaudry of Steelers for high-sticking.
Sheffield Steelers managed to pull one back through Robert Dowd before Lewis Hook’s snapshot somehow made its way through the legs of the despairing John Muse, restoring the Panthers two-goal lead and putting them back on course for only a third league title since 1956.
The game looked like it could turn on it’s head after Joshua Tetlow high-sticked Brendan Connolly, giving the Steelers a four minute advantage, with just six minutes left on the clock.
Connolly then increased the pressure on the panthers by bundling in a scrappy second for the Steelers, to make it 3-2 with just five minutes to play.
However it was a testament to the character of the Nottingham-based side with what followed.
A tenth goal of the season for Panther’s top scorer Kevin Domingue put the game out of sight for the soon-to-be winners and was swiftly followed by an empty-netter from Cangelosi, his second of the game.
Cangelosi’s late goal from halfway sent the Panthers players and staff into a frenzy of ecstasy and joy, as they all bundled together at the side of the pitch to celebrate their performance.
At the final whistle, the Steelers players were defeated and heartbroken, whereas the Panthers poured onto the pitch in wild celebration, with chanting and champagne being cracked open.
After the match, many of the Nottingham team’s players and staff took to social media to share their thanks and describe the feeling of victory.
Panthers stars Ross Toomey and Rob Lachowicz both took to Twitter to share squad pictures and videos praising everyone involved with the well-deserved victory.
After the cancelled 2019-20 ice hockey season, and this one behind closed doors, ice hockey fans worldwide will be hoping that this a fresh start and that they will be able to see their teams live in the near future.