WIN tomorrow and the Elite League title is ours, says Sheffield Steelers’ bench coach Neil Abel.
But lose again to form team Belfast Giants and the championship will drift away to their iceSheffield opponents, or joint top Cardiff Devils.
Three straight defeats has destablised Sheffield’s attempts to win the UK sport’s major prize.
And a fourth would see Giants leapfrog them into pole position and effectively end the chase, fears Abel.
“Things started going wrong against Dundee Stars (February 24, 5-3 win.) We didn’t play well that night and we went on to lose the others afterwards.
“The boys looked deflated over last weekend and didn’t have the passion and intensity you need to win at Nottingham Panthers and Belfast (4-1 and 5-2 losses.)
“If we’d have won both those, the league would have been ours. Now, if we lose tomorrow, I think we are done. But if we win, we can take that momentum into the rest of the games at Newcastle Vipers, who are playing well at home, and Braehead Clan, who are a decent side. We can win the championship if we believe in ourselves and win the remaining games.
“But right now, I’d say it was 50-50 whether we win this or not.”
Abel said the fact tomorrow’s game is at iceSheffield can be an advantage.
“It’s a tighter rink than the Arena and although we have got some good skaters I think we do well on smaller surfaces.
“But however we play, we have to win. I have played in Sheffield teams that haven’t performed well but got a scruffy win. Sheffield teams have always had grit and determination and we need to get that back first and foremost.”
Abel said a good practice session today was essential: “We must re-group and pick things up. The boys recognise that only their ‘A’ game tomorrow will do.”
Steelers are level on points, at the top of the table, with Cardiff Devils. Belfast are one point adrift, but have a game in hand.