ASHLEY Tait has sacrificed his personal goalscoring touch to help Sheffield Steelers’ general war-effort, skipper Jonathan Phillips believes.
Tait has suffered two droughts this season, he’s currently not scored for seven games, a period which followed an earlier season spell when he went six games without hitting the net.
But Phillips said that Tait’s defensive duties have had to come first, in order for the team to embark on a run of form which has seen them lose only one of 13 Elite League matches. That series has put Sheffield in second place behind leaders Belfast Giants, with three games in hand.
Phillips, who hopes to test his injured knee with a skating session next week, said: “The change for Ash is that he has had to fill in with a lot of injuries and he’s had to do more defensive duties to make sure we win. Last year he had a similar patch without scoring then hit the game-winner at Belfast.
“He is always the hardest working player out ther and knows exactly how to get involved in a game to give his team the best chance of being successful. Ash is the type who will sacrifice himself for his team, but he’ll always get his points, he always does.”
Phillips hopes his team-mates can win in the league at Nottingham tonight and then record a Challenge Cup win at iceSheffield, over Hull Stingrays.
“I think we are ready for Nottingham this time, we have to go in there and keep it simple or they will hurt us” said the Welsh wing. As for Hull, we have to be patient, bide our time and outwork them.”
Panthers are equal on points in the League with Steelers. Notts winger Robert Lachowicz said of Saturday: “It’s a big game...we’re all pumped.
“The fans are always extra noisy at these games; you can’t help but look forward to them.”
Teammate David Clarke and player coach Corey Neilson have both said they expect a more determined approach from Steelers than in the previous two games, this term.
Hull’s Power Play may be a danger Sheffield have to overcome. Stingrays have the second most lethal PP away from home in the division.