Sheffield Steelers must master title rivals Belfast Giants

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Sheffield Steelers will this weekend play a team providing a mirror image of themselves when it comes to Cup ambition and League aspirations.

And that makes it all the more vital that the Arena side chalks up maximum points against rivals, Belfast Giants, says home captain Jonathan Phillips.

The veteran winger admires the calibre and pedigree of the opposition and knows that if Sheffield are to retain their Elite League title in 2015-16, Giants are one of the sides they are going to have to master.

Steelers host them in back to back games, on Saturday and Sunday. It will be the first time that two have collided this season and Phillips is wary of what they will bring.

“We haven’t seen them yet, but they are always going to be a top team” said the skipper.

“We have got to be prepared and put the work in. They are going to be two very tough games; two teams playing against each other who are battling for the exact same thing.

Jonathan Phiilips

Jonathan Phiilips

“We need to take these four points from two games at home. They are big points for us.”

Phillips knows that one player in the Northern Irish side will be more keyed up than most - Michael Forney, who helped Steelers win the title last term.

Forney has scored five goals and five assists in his first eight games for Belfast.

“Obviously you have to keep close eyes on people like Forney” said Phillips. “He is always going to get his points and score his goals, so him coming back he will be trying to prove a point, but they have got a lot of other firepower too. We just need to concentrate on our own game. When we are doing that we use our speed so well we kind of dominate teams. We concentrate on ourselves hopefully we don’t need to worry about others.”

Phillips said there was no hint from Forney that he had an urge to move on at the end of the campaign.

“You never know with these players, careers aren’t that long, they like to see new places and do new things. The fit wasn’t right for him to stay and he wanted to go elsewhere, so you can’t fault another player for travelling to where he wants to go.

“He is a natural offensive guy, he’s got great speed, great hands, great shot, scores goals. He has got good vision. And he is a smart player and someone who competes every night so he is going to be one to watch.”

Steelers beat Manchester Storm last time out and Phillips conceded: “They are a good team, they came in to press us all night, we knew how offensive they were and they caused us problems. They forced us at times to get away from our game and we turned pucks over and they created chances on us. They are going to be a tough team all year.”

While Steelers won’t have Forney in their ranks, they will have Tyler Mosienko, who can currently do no wrong for the side - scoring 7+4 in six games.