Last chance for Steelers: Ice hockey

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The Independent Online
Alex Dampier, the Sheffield Steelers coach, is determined to end the season on a high note today, but not necessarily with the BT Play- off championship trophy in his pocket.

The Steelers start favourites for the final at the Nynex Arena, Manchester, for what is certain to be a hotly-contested affair against their rivals, Nottingham Panthers. But surprisingly Dampier, whose side achieved the Grand Slam last season of League, Benson and Hedges Cup and play-offs, will be unconcerned if the trophy cabinet is bare come Sunday morning.

Having been beaten in a two-legged Benson and Hedges semi-final this term by the Panthers, who eventually went on to win the Cup, and finishing second best to the Cardiff Devils in the League, the Steelers' season will stand or fall on today's result.

However, Dampier admitted: "Trophies aren't the be-all-and-end-all. It's the performance at the end of the day that counts. I suppose for some people it's the trophy that's important. But knowing my team, if we get the performance, then we will get the trophy."

Sheffield, on a high after their 5-2 semi-final win over Cardiff last Saturday, know there is little the Steelers and Panthers do not know about each other, having already been involved in 12 duels this season, with Sheffield holding a 7-5 advantage.

Just one year ago Sheffield led 3-0 in the play-off final before Nottingham netted three goals in 94 seconds in the second period to draw level, only to lose on penalties. Revenge would surely be sweet this time.

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