Nottingham Panthers: Corey Neilson anguish at loss to Sheffield

Corey Neilson
Neilson joined Panthers in 2006 and, as a player-coach, guided the club to their first league title in 57 seasons

Nottingham Panthers coach Corey Neilson says the Challenge Cup semi-final defeat against Sheffield Steelers feels like a "dagger in the heart".

Panthers led 3-1 after the first legexternal-link in the home of their fierce rivals.

But despite battling back from 3-0 down to level at 3-3 at the National Ice Centre, Steelers went on to win 6-4 and then triumph 1-0 on penalty shots.

"We weren't good enough. I wasn't good enough. It's a dagger in the heart," Neilson told BBC Radio Nottingham.

"We didn't execute all that well I don't think we dealt with the emotion of the game and the highs and lows that well."

Panthers were looking to win the Challenge Cup for a sixth year in a row and, after a disastrous start saw them 3-0 down inside six minutes, the hosts looked to be heading to the final.

Goals from Evan Mosey, Chris Lawrence and Rob Farmer had Panthers level by the end of the second period.

After falling behind again early in the third, Jonathan Boxill restored Panthers's two-goal aggregate lead, but Robert Dowd and Colton Fretter sent the tie into overtime.

And Sheffield's Tomas Petruska was the only successful player in the penalty shoot-out to take Steelers in to the final.

Neilson added: "At times we just didn't communicate and didn't do our jobs they way we should.

"In the first period Sheffield looked like they wanted it more and we didn't move all that well.

"In the second period we turned things around and started playing some decent hockey and in the third period it was up and down and it's tough."

Panthers are fourth in the Elite League table, nine points behind leaders Braehead Clan with just one game in hand.

"We have to get better," added Neilson. "We don't score an awful lot of goals and at the moment we are not defending all that well.

"We have to find a way to switch it around and get them positive. No one knows what can happen.

"The players have personal pride. But we know we have to win out and hope other teams do us favours."