After what seems like an eternity for hockey fans, ‘summer’ finally came to an end this evening with the return of pre-season for a new look Steelers team, who have welcomed 11 new faces to Coach Fox’s roster.
The fans got the chance to welcome the new and old faces back onto the ice tonight as they took on the Nottingham Panthers in the first game of pre-season with induction day only taking place less than a week ago.
And it was that combination of new and old that overcame the Panthers with a relatively comfortable 4:1 victory with new faces Balmas and Simpson picking up their first Steelers goals, added to by Allen and Whistle.
Pre-game introductions were rightly dominated by the remembrance of our own Alex Graham and GB Mike Hammond who both tragically lost their lives earlier this year. Alex was and would have been a huge member the Steelers squad, with Hammond having signed a contract with the Glasgow Clan for the 23/24 season. We won’t forget you and thank you for the joy you brought to all our lives on and off the ice.
Fox called on Greenfield, Jones, Tansey, Dowd, Allen and Balmas to make up his starting six. The Steelers dominated possession throughout the first twenty minutes and after swapping penalties early on, it was the starting line which got the Steelers on the board with the first goal of the season. Balmas credited with the goal after a couple of wicked deflections was enough to beat ex-Steeler, Stojanovic 5-hole. Dowd and Allen with the assists at 12.01.
It was a more sedate start to the second period with the ice looking extremely wet with over 9,000 in the building and 30degrees weather outside playing havoc with the ice plant. Both teams looked to struggle at times to keep the puck on the stick, leaving it behind on several occasions.
On the counter, the Panthers took their chance well at 28.04 to level the game with Otto Nieminim being found as the trailing man, two on one as Saucerman’s slide was in vein and he made no mistake finding the back of Greenfield’s goal.
The level game was short lived for the Panthers as the Steelers were back in-front at 29.43. A powerplay goal for big Mark Simpon who was quickest to react to a rebound on a Brett Neumann shot from in close and Simpson put the Steelers back ahead. Juusola with the second assist and the Steelers took the lead into the third period.
The Steelers then dominated the third period with two further goals, accompanied by the gloves being dropped by Ciampini, Tansey, Jones and Dowd.
Another powerplay goal for the Steelers gave them a two goal lead at 48.29 thanks to Scott Allen who placed himself perfectly to tip in a great cross crease pass from the impressive Mitchell Balmas as that line looks to have clicked early.
All hell then broke loose shortly afterwards as Tansey was cross-checked from behind and he made short work of his man at the boards before Jones and Anderson squared off and both were ejected from the game for removing their helmets. The entertainment certainly brought the near capacity crowd to their feet, and they made their appreciation well known.
The news doesn’t seem to have made its way to Nottingham’s new guys that Robert Dowd is not the man to mess with as he went toe-to-toe with Michaud and of course there was only one winner… the Golden Child!
The cherry on top of the cake was supplied by Brandon Whistle at 59.02 as he picked up the puck down the right wing and slotted home into an empty net as the Panthers pulled Stojanovic late on.
Man of the matches were handed out to Nieminim for the Panthers and Allen for the Steelers who gave the fans their first Eddy of the season.
The Steelers are back in action tomorrow night in a return fixture at Nottingham before we welcome you back to the Arena next Friday for our shirt launch – Make sure you are there for a great night.
We will then take on the Cardiff Devils in our final pre-season weekend – Tickets available via TicketMaster. See you there!
📸 Dean Woolley and Hayley Roberts