Panthers 4 Steelers 2

It was a privilege to be at the NIC last night, not only for a great Panthers victory but for a quite amazing tribute before the game to Panthers photographer Dave Page and Steelers supporter Owen Grant who both sadly passed away last week. Panthers were wearing their black kit as a mark of respect while the Steelers wore black armbands.
Stef read out firstly a tribute to Owen, then a tribute to Dave to a packed crowd while Dave Page’s family were lead on to the ice. What followed was quite simply incredible, and there can’t have been anyone who wasn’t moved as the whole 7,000 plus crowd made an incredible amount of noise for what seemed like an age, it was a truly wonderful tribute to both men.

On to the game itself, and it became very clear early on that Panthers were up for it, hitting anything that moved and fore-checking hard. The first fight of the evening saw Bruce Richardson take on the much bigger Scott Basiuk, possibly retribution for Basiuk injuring Dan Tessier the last time the two teams met in Sheffield. Bruce manged to land a couple of bombs early on while Basiuk caught Bruce with one before they were separated. Edge Richardson. It was the Steelers who perhaps should have taken the lead after a mistake by Rumun Ndur let Jonathan Phillips skate in one on one but he put his shot well over the crossbar. A superb stop by Jody Lehman prevented Robert Lachowicz scoring on the back hand, but Panther did take the lead in the 18th minute as great work by James Ferrera and Mark Richardson buzzing round Lehman’s goal left Johan Molin with an almost empty net to fire into. 1-0 Panthers at the period end.

Into the second and Panthers started to stamp their authority on the game. The lead was increased in the 22nd minute as a hopeful long range effort from Ed Hill was tipped past Lehman by James Ferrera and once again the NIC erupted with noise. Steelers came back into it in the 29th minute as Steve Munn beat Michel Robinson, but if the Steelers expected the Panthers to crumble they were very much mistaken as just three minute later Molin scored his second of the night on the powerplay, an excellent finish in front of the net. Panthers were now outplaying and outworking the Steelers and the visitors started look like they didn’t have an answer, however it was still 3-1 at the period end and the next goal would be huge.

The third was perhaps one of the most entertaining periods I have ever witnessed, not for just the hockey but the whole atmosphere and the events that transpired during it. The next goal was going to be all important and it was Panthers who scored it to take a deserved 4-1 lead, Brendan Cook being allowed three attempts to score with no Steelers defencman in sight. Lehman broke his stick as his frustration at his defence’s inability to clear the crease. The Panthers fans then started to have a bit of fun. Opportunities to have a bit of a gloat at the Steelers have been very few and far between lately, so the when the chant of “Top of the league, you’re having a laugh” started, the entire Panthers faithful joined in. More fun was to follow. Ashley Tait was punished with a shocking offside decision by the linesman, however instead of just getting on with it Tait decided to make his feelings known to the linesman and referee Andy Carson in perhaps one of the biggest displays of petulance I’ve ever seen from an opposition player, it was absolutely hilarious. I can’t imagine Dave Matsos would have been too happy with him!  The fun and games still wasn’t over, Corey Neilson and Jonathan Phillips had a coming together, I have no idea what started it but I do know that Neilson finished it, giving Phillips a bit of a beating! At the face off Steelers bench warmer Andrew Sharp entered the ice to fight Rumun Ndur, needless to say it was an easy Ndur victory and Sharp once again proved what a complete waste of space he is. There was still time for Steelers to grab a consolation second goal through Brad Cruikshank, but despite pulling Lehman for the extra skater Panthers skated to victory.

This was a great performance by the Panthers, we totally out-worked and out-played the champions in waiting. Our fore-checking was excellent all night and it was obvious that they wanted to win for Dave Page. For the Steelers I have to say that is easily the worst I’ve seen them play this season, they were second best all night but they’ll still be the champions, they just have to wait a little longer for it.

When all is said and done though, last night was more about hockey fans uniting to pay tribute to two friends lost to us, and I think we did them proud. I’ve often been critical of Panthers management, but they got the tributes last night spot on and I’m sure all who were there won’t forget it in a hurry.


1 Response to “Panthers 4 Steelers 2”

  1. 1 Stuart March 8, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    You’re right Jono – that was an absolutely amazing tribute to Owen and Dave Page. I’m struggling to think of one to compare with it. Full marks to the Panthers management for getting it just right, and obviously to both sets of fans who were a credit to the game and themselves.

    Fantastic stuff.

    Rest in peace to two great friends of the game.


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