Ice Hockey Heats Up In Nottingham

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A comfortable victory over arch rivals Sheffield Steelers saw Nottingham Panthers regain top spot in the league despite suffering a couple of worrying injuries during the game.

It could be argued a 6-3 score-line and 36 shots a-piece flattered the visiting team, who out shot Nottingham 15-5 in the final period when the home side were missing key import Cameron Mann and club captain Danny Meyers. Mann certainly looked unwell after the game and may need some rest but the more serious concern is for British defenceman Meyers who was on the receiving end of a knee-on-knee collision. Kevin Bergin tnottinghamvsheffield_20091107_2946webook a stick to the face and will be paying a visit to the dentist this week.

These games don’t need any additional hype but with new six-foot three, hard-hitting defenceman Mario Laroque flying in to make an impressive debut for the home side and the opportunity for Nottingham to send the Yorkshire outfit to the bottom of the league, this game was always going to be tasty. The massive 6,700 crowd weren’t disappointed as Nottingham’s assistant player-coach and fan favourite Bruce Richardson went toe-to-toe with Steeler’s agitator Jason Hewitt, landing the better punches and setting the tone for the evening. Tough Nottingham defenceman D’Amour tried to entice Sheffield’s Mark Thomas into a fight near the end of the first period, audaciously knocking off Thomas’s helmet and taking off his own helmet and gloves while being restrained by the officials.

Although Nottingham couldn’t get the powerplay firing, Sheffield managed two goals with the man advantage to tie the first period 2-2 despite being outshot 20 to 10. The second period saw Nottingham dominate and take a deserved three goal lead with goals from captain Meyers, leading point scorer Jade Galbraith and a shorthanded effort from the all action Richardson. After making it 6-2 with a beautifully worked Clarke goal, the Panthers seemed to sit back and shortly after Sheffield scored their third through the impressive Matt Hubbauer, Coach Neilson called a time out to steady the team for the final 6 minutes.Nottingham then successful defended a 5 on 3 penalty kill with Man of the Match Mark Levers putting in a great shift.

This win couldn’t have come at a better time for Nottingham who’s title-aspirations hit a rocky patch after a solid start to the season. Coach Corey Neilson didn’t underestimate the result or the performance; “We wanted to come out and play well, when we play well, we win. Beating Sheffield is a huge, huge statement. To control and dominate the way we did says a lot.” Neilson also spoke about the impact he hoped new signing Mario Laroque would have in the team, “The way he plays will allow me to play less minutes; he’s going to make me a better player. He wants to hit people and be mean, he plays the puck confidently and has a big shot.”

Under new rules, a team can register additional imports as long as they only ice 10 each game. This rule change has previously enabled Nottingham to fly Johan Molin as injury cover a couple of times this season and we quizzed Corey about his plans to manage the extra players on the roster. “We’ve managed our budget well this year and we’re in a decent position to take on another guy for a little while and see how it works. We always have injury concerns, so having that luxury [of an extra player] is great. If we have 11 guys that are healthy, I’ll pick the best 10 or the guys that are in the best form.”

nottinghamvsheffield_20091107_2729webFans have been critical of Neilson over the poor run of form and there have been questions about his ability to effectively coach and play, with rumours around a move to a more traditional bench-coaching role after recruiting an additional defenceman. Corey was quick to set the record straight, “I’m a player. My style of play is an element to the team’s success and no-one can replace what I do at this particular moment. You always need a powerplay defenceman, each team needs one and that’s my role.”

Look out for an ice hockey feature in the next issue of Freeq Magazine, out at the beginning of December and available from the National Ice Centre, with an opportunity to win tickets to a game.