June 5, 2021

The first fan-attended ice hockey match in the UK since March 2020 produced a thriller as Sheffield Scimitars edged Milton Keynes Thunder 6-5 in overtime at Ice Sheffield.

Qualifying from their respective north and south Cup competitions played behind closed doors, the two teams skated onto the ice backed by a sizeable number of their fans in the stands along with neutrals looking for a hockey fix.

A fast and furious start with physical play evident from the outset saw Sheffield jump to a first minute lead.  With an early powerplay, Lloyd Gibson got a touch on Steve Duncombe’s blueline blast to open the account after just 51 seconds.

Midway through the first period Scott Morris made it 2-0 and Sheffield, Three Rivers Cup winners, appeared to be in control.

The MK Thunder though had other ideas and battled back to level by the first break.  First Harrison Goode broke their duck with an unassisted marker, before Hallden Barnes-Garner finished at the back post for 2-2 at the first interval.

Sheffield were off to a quick start again in the middle frame, Nathan Ripley scoring for 3-2 at 21.00 but once again the Thunder came back.  On a powerplay, captain Alex Whyte skated down the wing and cut in to tuck the puck past Hadfield for the equaliser.

Another man advantage for Sheffield late in the frame paid dividends as Warren Tait converted from Ben Morgan’s pass – one of four helpers for the Scimitars blueliner.

Into the third period, MK came out firing and the Mulcahy brothers combined to level the score once again at 43.21.  Thunder then overturned Sheffield’s powerplay unit and Austin Mitchell-King skated away to bury the shorthanded go ahead goal.

MK’s penalty count kept growing however and on a short five on three advantage five minutes from time, Ruskin Springer-Hughes scored from down low and it was even on the scoreboard yet again.

The remaining moments were scoreless – though Sheffield hit the post and saw the effort cleared off the line, while James Hadfield denied Bobby Chamberlain at the other end.

After 15 months without fans in the stands, surely an extra few minutes is the least the supporters deserve?  Bonus hockey it was to be, three on three for five minutes.

Just over a minute into TO Connor Goode hit Ben Morgan behind the Sheffield net and was called for checking from behind, giving Sheffield their ninth powerplay of the afternoon, this one a four-on-three.

After Scims won the face off a pin-point pass out of defence by Morgan set Jack Brammer away one-on-one with Graham Laverick, and the Scimitars youngster – he’s not 18 till next month – made no mistake with his wrist shot finding the twine to end the game.

Sheffield will await the winner of the second semi final between Slough Jets, who won the Ruggedstock Cup in the south, and Widnes Wild.

Sunday’s final is off at 3pm with news about day tickets expected later once the second semi final is underway.

PHOTO: Bailey Templar/5thLinePhotography

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