VIDEO: Ice Hockey: Sheffield Steelers 1 Nottingham Panthers 3 - Double blow as goalie Josh Unice injured

Sheffield Steelers lost their Challenge Cup semi-final first leg last night - and their only fit import goalie.

Josh Unice was flattened by a Panthers’ skater in the first period.

Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers at the Motorpoint Arena last night

Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers at the Motorpoint Arena last night

He seemed to recover but was lying prone on the pad again on 41 minutes and had to be escorted off bent double, with what appeared to be a neck injury.

Unice was drafted into Sheffield after a hand injury to Frank Doyle, who has missed eight games and was unfit to challenge for his spot last night.

So that is the headache facing coach Gerad Adams now.

Unice’s problem started when Jonathan Phillips, desperately trying to check the dangerous Guillaume Doucet, sent him crashing into the netminder.

There was concern as he lay on his back for a couple of minutes as medics tended him. Eventually, he got gingerly to his feet, blinking and shaking his head.

It seemed an ideal time for Panthers to send some rubber his way.

And they had a good chance on the game’s first Power Play with Brandon Benedict and Colby Cohen testing Unice’s alertness.

Sheffield had a purple patch where they took the game to Notts and strung together some good chances.

But then two defensive boobs; Rod Sarich and Mike Forney switched off in their own zone, Evan Mosey nipped in and forced the puck home, at 14;54.

Less than two minutes later Ben O’Connor’s exuberance to get up saw ice blow up in his face.

The puck turned over, Sheffield were over-run and Chris Lawrence clouted it home.

While the Arena side had shown early defensive vulnerability, the middle period was about offensive profligacy.

While Mathieu Roy scored at 21;51, Forney missed a golden chance, Roy blasted a breakaway wide and Rob Dowd fanned on a short-handed opportunity.

During that period of wastefulness, Panthers who have a strong passing rhythm, again opened up a two-goal advantage. They attacked in a unit and Doucet struck home their third of the night, which served to further increase their confidence.

After Unice went off, stand-in keeper Geoff Woolhouse did well other than one big rebound. But he was put in peril when Rob Dowd over-elaborated, lost the puck and Greg Jacina counter attacked and hit the bar.

n Steelers resume league play against Coventry and Belfast at the weekend, before the second leg on Tuesday. Steelers have their fifth game in seven days at Hull the night after.