Tigers netminder Sam Gospel has described the “unreal experience” of playing in Sheffield Steelers’ Challenge Cup win over his home-town club, Nottingham Panthers.
The 20-year-old, who grew up within the Nottingham junior ice hockey system, was called up to play for the injury-hit Steelers squad on Tuesday.
He was given a place in the starting line-up at the 7000-seater Capital FM Arena, with Sheffield looking to claw back a two-goal deficit from the first leg of the semi-final.
And after making a string of fine saves during regulation time, Gospel saved all three penalty shots to give the Steelers an 8-7 victory over their fiercest rivals.
He said: “I was pretty nervous to begin with, but that soon went away. It was just an unreal experience for me.
“Of course, it was different, after being in Nottingham all my life and training with them. Playing for a different team in the arena, especially the Steelers, was a bit strange. But it is a job and you have to do it.
“I feel like I played a good game, although there is one goal I would want back. That sort of thing happens in matches but I always felt confident, which was great.”
Gospel took the call to play for Sheffield – for one game on loan – at midday on Tuesday, and had to wait for his kit to be delivered from Telford before taking to the ice.
He added: “I was nervous when Tom Watkins asked me if I would be interested and my heart started beating really fast. I was very happy, though. When I told my family, they thought I would be back-up, so they were happy, and nervous for me, when I said I was starting.
“When the penalty shots came, it was just a case of living for the moment and doing your job.
“I can’t wait to get back to training with the guys in Telford, though. I’m sure they’ll all be happy for me.”
Gerard Adams, Head Coach of Sheffield Steelers, was delighted with Sam’s loan debut – and paid tribute to The Tigers’ efforts in helping them out.
“I didn’t know Sam’s name at midday on Tuesday, but now it’s a name I will never forget,” he said.
“After getting the call at lunchtime, he was at the NIC by 5pm, about an hour before the guys from Telford arrived with his gear.”
“It couldn’t have worked out better for him. There were many times we needed him to make the big save and he never let us down once.
“He did himself and Telford Tigers credit and in doing so, became a Steelers hero.”
Gospel will be back with The Tigers for Saturday’s trip to Peterborough Phantoms and at home to Basingstoke Bison on Sunday (5.45pm).
The county men only need a single point from either game to lift their first league trophy since 1988.