Sheffield Steelers continue mission to beat Belfast Giants and Cardiff Devils to title
While Sheffield Steelers have their eyes on cutting back the 11-point Elite League lead enjoyed by Cardiff Devils immediately above them, they know a loss on Saturday will see them tumble back down the rankings.
Belfast Giants are just a point behind Steelers, and a win for the Irish at the SSE Arena will see Sheffield drop to third.
It is an important weekend for all the top three runners and riders.
As Steelers play in Northern Ireland, Cardiff will host an out of form Nottingham Panthers.
And when they arrive in Wales for Sunday’s road game, Belfast will be campaigning at Manchester Storm, who have lost their last three matches.
So coach Paul Thompson is hopeful his side will keep their own momentum going by replicating last weekend’s back-to-back wins.
Having lost twice by a single goal at Cardiff already this year, it’s a big ask for the champions.
“It is not the easiest travel schedule, but we will fly out Saturday afternoon, and then we fly out Sunday morning, and get the bus and go to Cardiff” the
“It’s a tough double header, but one where we are full of confidence. Even in the loss in Cardiff (November 27) I thought we were outstanding.”
He said they had played three in five days and still outworked them. We didn’t get the bounces for whatever reason. But if we have to go in and get another four point weekend.”
On paper, it threatens to be a penalty-packed mini series - Steelers players feel hard done to over two recent incidents.
Belfast’s David Rutherford blind-sided Yared Hagos and Cardiff’s Joey Haddad inflicted facial injuries on Levi Nelson - both situations leaving a lingering resentment.
However cool heads will have to prevail as Steelers will be without Andreas Valdix and possibly Zack Fitzgerald.
Steelers’ official Dave Simms said: “Points are more important than evening out personal vendettas.
“Revenge is a dish best served cold - and we’d prefer to serve it in March, when Rutherford and Haddad can look at photos of Hagos and Nelson holding the League trophy.”