Cowley saves the day for Sheffield

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The Independent Online
Ice hockey

STEVE PINDER

Sheffield Steelers will contest the Benson and Hedges Cup final next month against Nottingham Panthers on home ice, but with the knowledge that passionate Panthers fans, who also see the fixture as a local derby and have seen their side win in the "House of Steel" before, will match any noise the home supporters can offer.

Sheffield had the hardest road to the final, trailing Fife Flyers 5-3 after the first leg of the semi-final. Icing their new import, the net minder Wayne Cowley, in a baptism of fire, they pulled back one goal through Tommy Plommer. But Alistair Reid and Frank Morris put Fife three in front on aggregate half-way through the match.

Steelers pulled one back again, only for Iain Robertson to restore Flyers' cushion. But as Fife tired the 7,000-strong crowd got behind their team. With five minutes to go, Ron Shudra's goal made it all square at 8-8 on aggregate.

Cowley earned his keep, saving from Robertson with seconds left, and the match went into sudden-death overtime. It took five minutes of end- to-end hockey before Tony Hand scored for a 9-8 Steelers win.

Nottingham had the easier passage with a 9-3 lead from the first leg, but Humberside kept the second leg respectable. They held Panthers 1-1 in the first period before losing the second and third periods 3-2 to make the score 7-5 on the night and 16-8 on aggregate.

BENSON AND HEDGES CUP Semi-finals second leg: Saturday: Sheffield 6 Fife 3 (Sheffield win 9-8 on aggregate). Sunday: Nottingham 7 Humberside 5 (Nottingham win 16-8 on aggregate).

BRITISH LEAGUE Premier Division: Saturday: Basingstoke 2 Humberside 6; Milton Keynes 8 Cardiff 9; Nottingham 13 Newcastle 3; Slough 5 Durham 10. Sunday: Basingstoke 5 Slough 1; Cardiff 5 Sheffield 4; Newcastle 2 Durham 9. First Division: Saturday: Billingham 2 Manchester 13; Blackburn 11 Medway 5; Guildford 10 Peterborough 1; Murrayfield 4 Chelmsford 3; Solihull 4 Dumfries 12; Swindon 6 Paisley 5; Telford 6 Bracknell 4. Sunday: Billingham 9 Murrayfield 2; Blackburn 8 Guildford 5; Bracknell 11 Swindon 2; Dumfries 11 Chelmsford 0; Manchester 15 Solihull 2; Medway 1 Telford 6; Peterborough 4 Paisley 9.

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