Ice Hockey: Stubborn start by Sheffield

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AT THE end of last season, as Sheffield Steelers were preparing for promotion to the First Division, David Gardner-Brown, the team owner, stated that his ambition was to have a team capable of beating Durham Wasps in the Benson and Hedges Cup final.

That is not as far-fetched as it sounds. Having beaten Telford Tigers in last weekend's play-offs to reach this weekend's qualifying rounds proper, they promptly disposed of Ayr Raiders 12-4 and drew 7-7 with Murrayfield Racers.

Admittedly, Ayr have suffered pre-season off-ice rumblings about their continued existence and their start to the season is beacuse of help from Gardner- Brown, who has committed himself to their survival.

The Racers, who had lost Scott Neil to the Steelers, found the newcomers troublesome. Fittingly, Neil opened the scoring and not even three goals from the Racers' Chris Palmer in the first period could deter the English. Late in the final period, the Racers' favourite son, Tony Hand, restored their lead but with 90 seconds left Mark McKie grabbed a point for Sheffield.

The highest scoring game of the weekend saw Cardiff Devils beat Bracknell Bees 16-10, while the 2-2 draw between Humberside Seahawks and Nottingham Panthers was the lowest scoreline since the Premier League began in 1983.

Seahawks took a two-goal lead after six minutes but Jim Graves, the Panthers' new goalminder, and his opposite number, Frank Killen, then dominated proceedings until the Panthers drew level through Dan Dorion and Ashley Tait.

BENSON AND HEDGES CUP Qualifying rounds: Saturday: Basingstoke 14 Slough 2; Fife 13 Murrayfield 10; Medway 3 Humberside 10; Romford 4 Billingham 6; Sheffield 12 Ayr 4. Sunday: Cardiff 16 Bracknell 10; Humberside 2 Nottingham 2; Murrayfield 7 Sheffield 7; Peterborough 9 Medway 7; Whitley 10 Wasps 7.