Sheffield Steelers emerged bruised but victorious after a full-blooded Play Off semi-final dog-fight with Hull this afternoon.
The winner came with just three seconds left, when Elite League player of the year Mathieu Roy scored from close-range...a goal typical of his gutsy season in front of goal.
Both sides had missed chances and competed hard in every second of the game as they competed for the right to proceed to the ultimate showdown tomorrow (4pm) against Coventry Blaze, who went on to win their play off semi against Belfast Giants on penalty shots.
Hull were physical and fast and had a never-say-die attitude.
They feel robbed that the referee hit them with a relatively routine penalty with 30 seconds to go.
But the closeness of the game did them credit.
Gerad Adams’ League champions, without long-term injured Frank Doyle, Gord Baldwin and Tom Petresku, had a great chance after just 30 seconds at the Nottingham Ice Arena.
Winger Colton Fretter’s shot was saved by David Brown’s leg on the line.
Steelers, who had beaten Hull on all six occasions they had met previously, scoring an average of more than five goals per game, were certainly not having it their own way though.
Rod Sarich slipped allowing a two-on-once chance which Jordan Meyer hammered at Josh Unice.
And Will Frederick banged a point shot inches wide of Unice’s post.
Sheffield’s Tyler Mosienko was a constant threat for the champions.
He darted through the middle and backhanded a chance at Brown in the 10th minute.
But the best chance fell to Ben O’Connor, who was teed up brilliantly on the Power Play by Roy - his slapshot going off target.
Sheffield had outshot Hull 13-8 but both sides went even goalless at the first break.
Steelers had to overcome adversity in the middle period.
They seemed deflated when a Rob Dowd ‘goal’ was washed out for high-sticks and Hull took advantage.
Eric Galbraith was allowed far too long to wind up for a shot from the right wing, the power of which took Unice by surprise and the east Yorkshire side had a 1-0 lead, at 31;41.
Zach Hervato hit a post and there were thundering body checks on Phil Hill, Mike Forney and Rod Sarich.
But Darrel Hay’s speculative wrist shot on the Power Play flashed into the top corner for 1-1 at 34;51, and Sheffield improved on that when Colton Fretter drilled in a low shot three minutes later.
That way some way towards quietening the NIC‘ neutral’ fans who were rooting for the underdog.
Dustin Kohn and O’Connor both hit the post as Sheffield looked for the killer strike.
But instead Hull equalised at 48;40 Cory Tanaka scoring a similar shot to the one that had beaten Unice earlier.
The game looked to be heading for overtime until Omar Pacha was penalised for holding - and Sheffield profited through Roy’s hard work around the crease.
Later, Pacha said that the game had been decided not by the players - but by the referee, a view shared by owner Bobby McEwan.
But Dowd, in the post-match press conference said that decisions had gone for and against both sides and the officials, backed by frequent use of video reviews, had awarded what they saw fit and proper.
Adams said his team had been “over-aggressive” in the early stages and he said they were capable of performing better.
Saturday 4th April 2015
Play-Offs Semi Finals @ NIC Nottingham
Sheffield Steelers 3 Hull Stingrays 2
Belfast Giants 2 Coventry Blaze 3 (after PS)
Sunday 5th April 2015
Play-Offs 3/4th place @ NIC Nottingham
Belfast Giants v Hull Stingrays – 12.00pm
Play-Offs Final @ NIC Nottingham
Sheffield Steelers v Coventry Blaze - 4.00pm