The Steelers can take one huge step towards the progression round of the Challenge Cup with a victory over Nottingham at the Motorpoint Arena on Saturday.
Gerad Adams’ side presently trail Cardiff by a point (with a game in hand) for top sport in Group B of the EIHL Challenge Cup groupings.
And whilst it is almost impossible for the Steelers not to progress into the quarter final stages, a win will against the Panthers will ensure a higher seeding - and thus a supposed easier route to the final stages of the competition.
The Cup has evaded the Steelers since 2003, back in the Super League days. That’s a crazy stat when you think of the league and play off glory Sheffield has had since then.
Adams will see this season as a year to rectify that statistic with his impressive Steelers side that took three out of four cup points last weekend against Cardiff and Coventry.
The game on Saturday takes on double importance as it will be the first time this year that the Panthers have travelled the 45 miles up the M1 to Sheffield.
This rivalry is legendary in the British game and Saturday will give the Steelers a chance not only to progress in the cup, but to also set the tone for the rest of the season against their arch enemy.
Nottingham are a wounded animal right now. Their Champions Hockey League start to the season might have been sexy and exciting, taking on some of Europe’s glamour clubs - but it has come at a cost, with several injuries to key players.
Playing short last weekend, Nottingham were beaten at home by Hull and then picked up another injury to Brandon Benedict. Steelers, too, have injury concerns: Rod Sarich is out for another month at least, and Pascal Morency is unlikely to dress for a third weekend since picking up a concussion in Cardiff at the start of September. As in all Steelers-Panthers games, goaltending will be key and that is something Adams must be happy about.
The early season form of Frank Doyle has been outstanding, simply picking up from where he left off last year.
Doyle has marshalled his defensive troops brilliantly to date and been the difference in many games played over the last few weeks. Doyle knows that Kowalski is still regarded as the daddy of the goalies after leading Nottingham to cup, league and play off successes in recent years.
Until Doyle’s arrival, the Steelers struggled to compete with the Panthers in goaltending terms.
Now the Steelers can trade blow for blow offensively with Nottingham knowing they have the dependable and reliable Doyle behind them.
In Doyle the Steelers trust, in the same way that the Panthers do with Kowalski.
Other ‘keepers may come and go but these two goalies in my opinion will be as influential as any players in the league when the three big trophies are decided on.
Doyle has already shown that he is more than capable of leading a team to a play off trophy.
I’m confident he can do the same once again only this time helping lift the Challenge Cup. He has a 93 per cent save rate already, and if he continues with that on Saturday his Steelers side with have cemented their place in the progression rounds of the cup.
Steelers have confirmed this week that the rearranged home game at the Motorpoint Arena, against Dundee Stars, is to be played on Wednesday October 15.
The original fixture was postponed when the Arena was unable to host the game due to the broken pipework beneath the concrete floor.
All tickets bought for the fixture on September 6, can be used at the Arena for the game on October 15.