Leading man comes good at right time

Changing fortunes: Steelers' Jonathan Phillips.          Picture: Rik Rayner
Changing fortunes: Steelers' Jonathan Phillips. Picture: Rik Rayner
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It has been an unlucky 13th professional season, at times, for Sheffield Steelers skipper Jonathan Phillips.

A nasty knee injury and a delicate operation meant he missed more than 20 games right in the middle of a league season which reaches its climax this weekend.

His return to the team has seen him deployed sparingly and he has scored only once in 22 games.

But there are signs this week that things are changing for the better.

He was called up for Great Britain duty and, given a fair wind, will captain Sheffield to the Elite League trophy, as long as they win both games against Breahead Clan.

The Welsh winger said: “It is always nice to be picked for GB; at one time I thought I would be out injured for the whole season, so it has been good to get back for Sheffield and then get selected. But for now all that matters is winning games - especially these last two.”

Phillips admits his side let in two “soft goals” at next-to- bottom Newcastle Vipers last Sunday.

“We are winning games, and that is all that matters at this stage,” he added. “Teams have to find a way to wi, how ever they are playing and that’s what we’ve been doing in the last couple of games.

“We need to all be on the right page and be mentally as well as physically ready.

“This week is a big one in practice. We need to be high intensity. I think we will be all right, I am optimistic.”

While league leading Steelers slipped up in a 4-0 defeat to fifth-placed Clan back in October, they have performed will against them on the three other league occasions, beating them 5-2, 6-4 and 4-2.

Steelers skaters who have particularly enjoyed these occasions have included Joey Talbot and Neil Clark, who have both got three goals against the Scots so far.

Steelers are level on points with Cardiff Devils, but have a better ‘regular time wins’ record than the Welsh.

Ben Simon’s side are one point ahead of Belfast Giants, who are third.

Cardiff are at home to Coventry Blaze on Saturday and then travel to Edinburgh Capitals on Sunday while Belfast head to Nottingham Panthers before tackling Coventry.