TONIGHT’S first period may be of season-long significance to Sheffield Steelers.
The South Yorkshire club have lost five of their 12 matches so far this season and could lose their second place in the rankings when other teams catch up with their games in hand.
Steelers players are desperate to shrug off their slow starts - they only got in gear for the last third of last Saturday’s defeat at Fife.
This evening, when Sheffield host Cardiff Devils (7.30pm) all that has to change, says forward Danny Wood.
“We have to be ready to go straight from the start” says Wood, who will miss the game because of a broken finger.
“We recognise that we have to be more consistent in the first periods of games.
“It is about dictating the pace of the game. We have to go at them, hopefully get some goals and then build on the momentum in the second and third periods.
“And after that we have to keep doing that in games through the rest of the season.”
Devils, who are in fourth spot, will be keen to show that they are title contenders after twice being taken to the cleaners by leaders Belfast Giants (6-3 and 4-0 losses.)
Earlier this month, they beat Steelers in Wales, 2-1. But Wood says: “They are a different team away from home.
“They are very tough to play in their barn but a bit easier on the road.
“They cannot get around the ice as well as they do in Cardiff.”
Tonight’s match pitches together heavyweights Tom Sestito, Sheffield’s NHL man, and Devils’ Devin Didomete.
Sestito has been attracting a lot of attention - including that of Benn Olson, the Coventry Blaze giant who will face him tomorrow.
lson is the most penalised player in the league this season, (124 mins, 11 games) and dropped the gloves with Sestito when they were in the AHL in 2009.
Olson said: “I won’t back down from anyone. I don’t know what will happen, we will have to see how the game goes. I am not just going to fight. I am not a fan of the guy. I don’t appreciate the stuff he says on the ice. I am looking forward to playing against him over here.”