JOEY Talbot hasn’t felt this good since his Sheffield Steelers’ side completed the double over title rivals Cardiff Devils last month, writes Bob Westerdale.
His two goals delivered victory over Elite League form team Belfast Giants on Wednesday. And the side now needs just victories over Braehead Clan and next to bottom Newcastle Vipers to lift the silverware.
Yet Talbot realises there is a lesson to be learned from last month’s victories over Devils, who along with Giants, are still very much in the title chase.
After exhausting 5-4 and 5-2 wins over the Welsh, Sheffield’s form dropped horribly.
They struggled to beat eighth-place Dundee Stars and then lost three games on the bounce, to Hull Stingrays, an away game at Belfast, and a 4-1 loss at Nottingham Panthers. “You cannot call it a championship now” says the Canadian, who is determined to avoid any complacency.
AUDIO: Listen to Joey Talbot’s full interview with Bob Westerdale - click the ExternalLink in the column on the right.
“We are feeling pretty good, but the next three (games) are going to be pretty tough. It’s back to work as usual. We can’t just stay light, that’s what we did after Cardiff, we always like to make it difficult, it seems.”
But is Talbot absolutely sure his side, which leads the league with two points, will run out eventual championship winners? “I have no doubts. I think we have the team to do it and its on our shoulders. We have made it tough but we’re going to get the job done. We have got to play our game for 60 minutes.”
Talbot seemed particularly fired up in the win over Giants. Is he on the edge? He explained: “With a baby at home not sleeping, who knows? Every little thing frustrates you, (in matches like the Belfast win.) We haven’t been getting the bounces.
“Belfast have a good team, it’s tough to break down their system, we had a game plan that was going to be ugly. Defensive at home is not really our style...but in Belfast (5-2 loss) they played a pretty good game and took it to us; we thought we’d match what they were doing (at iceSheffield) and control the play a little more and get the puck in their end.” The game was won by a sensational strike from team-mate Jason Hewitt. Said Talbot: “Holy Jeez, it took about half an hour to go in!
“Everybody was on the edge of their seat on the bench. Hewitt seems to step up in the right places. It’s nice to see him grow as a player; he’s getting better every year.”