Write Sheffield Steelers off at your peril
Attention reverts to the primary task - retaining the league title - tonight for Sheffield Steelers.
And after security a spot in the Challenge Cup Final, head coach Paul Thompson remains upbeat of his club’s chances of keeping the main silverware, despite the fact his men have been locked in third place since early December.
“There are so many twists and turns to come, I’m sure about that” said the coach, ahead of the back-to-back games with Manchester Storm.
“Everybody is writing us off, but that’s fine.
“With the match-ups remaining between Cardiff Devils and Belfast Giants, I still think we can go on and win the league.
“But while we will be watching what happens with their games, our focus will be on not losing again - we simply cannot accept that. If we keep winning, we will keep the pressure on - and good things can happen, as we have seen before.”
The task became even more difficult, when Cardiff Devils won at Belfast Giants - not a result that favoured Sheffield.
However, Steelers expect to be at full strength for the visit of Storm. “We have beaten them all season but none of them have been easy games and we must not slip up this weekend” said the coach.
- Thompson says he found it “peculiar” how some fans had criticised the form of d-man Christoffer Bjorkland, after the Swede left the club.
“He was our top player in terms of plus-minus, by a country mile. He was a good player in every situation of a game and we did not want him to go” said the team boss.
“He was a professional who did everything he could off and on the ice to help us win. So will we miss him? Well let’s see. We have six d-man and Rod Sarich, we will do everything we can to bring trophies home.”
In league and cup, Steelers have lost just once in the last six games.
- Zack Fitzgerald is likely to play this weekend despite the check to the head he received by Jeff Brown, against Nottingham Panthers, in midweek.
Thompson believes the fact that his d-man’s head was down - and the game was going at full pelt in the corner - the assault by Brown was both dangerous and intentional.
“It is the sort of thing I want to see out of the game, whichever team’s players are doing it” he said.
Nottingham player/coach David Clarke did not argue with the referee’s decision to kick Brown out of the semi-final at the Arena. But he said: “Brian McGrattan) had made contact and I think their player was more concerned about him,” he said.
“He didn’t see Jeff coming so it’s one of those things that can happen. Jeff was looking to make a hit.
“It’s the type of penalty you have to accept. You don’t want to see it but it wasn’t intentional. Browny’s not that type of player.”
- Thompson said he was “disappointed but not surprised” on hearing the decision that the club had been prevented from being able to bring forward the game against the Coventry Blaze, 24 hours before the Challenge Cup final in Cardiff.
“Listen, Cardiff are invoking a league rule which I guess is their right. I know if the roles had been reversed i wouldn’t have done the same thing. I’d like to think that we are bigger than that. This is a league rule I was unaware of and I believe was never brought in for instances such as this.
“Surely the EIHL Challenge Cup Final should be a great league event not a game where one team is penalised for making it that far.
“If we needed any more motivation to win the cup, and I don’t think we did, then the Devils have certainly just given that to us.”
Friday 17th February
Belfast Giants 3 Cardiff Devils 4
Braehead Clan 8 Fife Flyers 5
Saturday 18th February
Belfast Giants v Cardiff Devils – 7.00pm
Fife Flyers v Dundee Stars – 7.15pm
Nottingham Panthers v Coventry Blaze – 7.00pm
Sheffield Steelers v Manchester Storm – 7.00pm
Sunday 19th February
Coventry Blaze v Nottingham Panthers – 5.15pm
Dundee Stars v Fife Flyers – 6.30pm
Manchester Storm v Sheffield Steelers – 5.30pm