Corey Neilson pride at Nottingham Panthers' Challenge Cup win

Strange way to win Cup - Neilson

Nottingham Panthers coach Corey Neilson said the latest Challenge Cup triumph means as much as any of the other four he has won during his time at the club.

Panthers won 5-3 over two legs against fierce local rivals Sheffield Steelers, despite losing Tuesday's tie 2-1.

Neilson told BBC East Midlands Today: "It was as good as any [trophy].

"That's four in a row in the Challenge Cup and and five in six years. It's a trophy we have had a lot of success with and we are very proud."

Neilson said Elite League champions Panthers, who won a one-sided first leg 4-1 in Sheffield, were not at their best.

Sheffield took a two-goal lead on the night through Lee Esders and Stephen Goertzen to reduce their aggregate deficit to 4-3.

But Neilson, who recently signed a new contract, said Panthers showed good character to recover and eased to a 5-3 aggregate win thanks to Bruce Graham's second-period strike.

"Credit to Sheffield. They played a good game," Neilson said. "They played fast and hard and they got some early bounces.

"I don't think we played quite as courageous with the puck; we played courageous without the puck but we were not as efficient as we normally are.

"But then we settled and started moving it a little better and showing width in our attack and we slowly clawed it back and gained a bit of ground.

"We have already one, this is the second one and you are up three goals coming in and actually lose the game and win the trophy so it's a strange feeling.

"We felt, in a small way, that we let ourselves down losing the game but we got it done in the end."

Steelers coach Ryan Finnerty believes his side's display in defeat means he can leave with his "head held high" if his contract is not renewed.

His future is in doubt after failing to win a trophy this season and he is waiting for the club's owner Tony Smith to decide what happens next.

"It's up to Tony," Finnerty told BBC Radio Sheffield. "His job is to secure who runs the club. Our job is to put on a gutsy performance.

"I believe the quality is there and the we had some tough bounces. These are not excuses; they are reality but these guys will come back fighting.

"The right people are here and we have a good foundation to work on. I feel we are not far from success. Obviously I stay positive. Regardless of the situation with me, I can walk out with my held high.

"The guys battled real hard and I am proud of every one of them. It was always going to be a steep mountain. We had a chances. We were one away from but they got a powerplay goal and it hurt but we battled all night."

Panthers will now look to complete the Treble with victory in the Elite League play-offs in Nottingham this weekend.

Nottingham play Cardiff Devils in the first semi-final on Saturday at 13:00 BST, with Belfast Giants playing Coventry Blaze in the second semi-final at 17:00 BST.

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