Sheffield v Braehead Match Review

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While the first semi-final saw a clear favourite eventually sneak through, this game on paper was more difficult to call. The first ever Scottish team to qualify for the Elite League playoff weekend looked strong in eliminating a misfiring Nottingham side and while many neutrals probably had Sheffield as slight favourites, the arena was certainly cheering for Braehead.

It appeared that referee Darnell was sporting a helmet cam in the first period (which he had jettisoned at the first intermission – perhaps knowing he’d made some dubious calls and didn’t want the additional scrutiny).

The game began and ex-Panther Kevin Bergin fell over – not the best of starts. The decibel levels were definitely higher for this match with the Sheffield fans taking up three full blocks with a garish orange glow.

A massive hit by Frank on Lacroix early on caused a delay for blood on the ice and fortunately no penalty as it was a clean check. Braehead gained the momentum and Bergin’s silky skills to deke past a broken stick gave him an assist on an early goal for Trimm who drew Doyle one way, squeezing the puck into the open side of the net to send all but 3 blocks of the arena into celebration.

The start of the dodgy calls came with a high sticks against Bergin after a gentle check against an overly dramatic Sheffield player and the anti-Steelers chants came a few moments later with most fans joining in.

After an indifferent season for Dicasmirro he popped up to tie the game at 1-1 going on to end the game with a goal and an assist on the winner.

Twelve minutes in and Bergin was checked from behind into the Braehead bench with no call coming and then interesting calls on Matt Towe as he skated in on the Sheffield goal somehow being assessed a slashing penalty with Baldwin getting a roughing call to even it up.

Then perhaps the most controversial calls of the night after 15:42 and a skirmish behind the Sheffield goal resulted in Spencer beating up Champagne who was clearly trying to avoid being punched rather than show any willingness to go at it. With Darnell watching on and the linesmen reluctant to jump in when they’d been quick to break up anything else, it left Frank no choice but to rescue his teammate and pick up a third man in game penalty for his trouble.

He was clearly expressing his disgust at the officials for not stepping in sooner and Darnell seemed to realise his error so gave Spencer a game penalty for fighting, much to the outrage of Sheffield coach Gerard Adams whose comments in the press conference after the game are not publishable and were followed by apologies by himself and David Simms on his behalf.

The irony of Frank and Spencer being ejected was Darnell’s refereeing drawing parallels with the calamitous Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em star (google it).

The go-ahead goal came for Sheffield at 16:17 with a rare Kohn marker shifting momentum to the Steelers with a 2-1 lead going into the second period.

With the helmet cam removed, Darnell presented a number of powerplays to Braehead in the second period who finally converted on their fifth attempt through Goldie. Incidentally the line of Goldie, Champagne, and Lust sounds more like the ingredients for a top night out in London than an ice hockey forward line.

It was anyone’s game going into the third period at 2-2 and a tense but fairly open period saw both teams with chances to score a winner – eventually Dicasmirro setting up the hugely skilled Dowd to slot the puck into the roof of the net while in the process of falling down to send the orange section of the arena into meltdown.

Despite a late too many men call against Sheffield and with the Clan pulling their netminder for an extra skater, they couldn’t find a way past Doyle and Sheffield squeezed into the final with what should be a tight game against Belfast.