Sheffield Steelers see off Nottingham Panthers in cup
Sarich sealed Sheffield's win with less than two minutes left
Sheffield Steelers saw off arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers 3-1 in a typically feisty Challenge Cup encounter at the National Ice Centre.
Rob Globke opened the scoring for the visitors with a tidy finish.
Jade Galbraith levelled matters by the end of the first period after some quick hands in front of the net.
But Steelers looked sharper in the last third and Rod Sarich put them ahead after a spell of home pressure and Rob Dowd sealed the win on the powerplay.
The game was even throughout but Sheffield zipped the puck around quicker when it counted and displayed a ruthless streak which Panthers sorely missed - particularly when they failed to take advantage of a double powerplay.
Nottingham, who were thumped 4-1 by Steelers when the two sides met earlier this month, enjoyed a good early spell of possession and looked threatening but Steelers soon got into their stride and created the better chances in the opening 10 minutes.
Netminder Craig Kowalksi was forced into three fine stops in the first period - including a fine double save from Sarich and Ashley Tait.
Matthew Myers then went close with a clever flick at the other end but it was the visitors who took the lead when they made the most of their extra man on a delayed penalty and Globke scored from close in.
Predictably tempers started to flare towards the end of the first period and that seemed to spark the hosts into life and they drew level on the powerplay.
Some quick hands and an astute pass by Matthew Myers found Galbraith who finished in fine style from in front of the net with less than two minutes left on the clock.
Galbraith almost grabbed a second soon after the restart but was thwarted by netminder Ervins Mustakovs while Kowalski pulled off a superb stop low down to his right to deny Joey Talbot.
David-Alexandre Beauregard then had a glorious opportunity to put Panthers ahead but could not find a finish after intercepting the puck on halfway and skating half the length of the ice.
The ever-dangerous Galbraith also went close with a snapshot as Corey Neilson's men dominated the start of the second period.
But with the Panthers pressure mounting, Steelers took the lead when the puck fell nicely for Robert Dowd off the boards and he nipped in to finish high past Kowalski.
Overall I thought we played OK but we need to take our opportunities
Panthers coach Corey Neilson
David Clarke then hit the pipes on the wraparound as Corey Neilson's men responded.
Then came the game's defining moment as Sheffield defended magnificently to withstand a near 90-second five-on-three powerplay.
Jeff Legue could have extended the lead while Marc Levers went agonisingly close at the other end and Billy Ryan also tested the excellent Mustakovs on another ultimately wasted powerplay.
But a Myers penalty late on dashed Panthers' hopes of salvaging a draw and Sheffield wrapped up their victory late-on when Sarich slotted home a fierce strike.
Steelers now top Challenge Cup Group B, with Nottingham fourth out of five. The two teams meet again in the reverse tie on Friday.
Panthers coach Neilson told BBC Radio Nottingham: "I thought we were pretty physical and did a lot of good things but it came down to some mistakes.
"Overall I thought we played OK but we need to take our opportunities; we lacked a little bit of potency."
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.