Competition will become tighter

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NEIL CLARK believes ice hockey fans could be making a mistake if they think the Elite League title has become a two-horse race.

His Sheffield Steelers team are hot on the heels of leaders Cardiff Devils – and some believe the title will go to one of the teams owned by businessman Paul Ragan.

But Belfast Giants and Nottingham Panthers are not far from behind, and Clark expects Coventry Blaze to rally and make a late charge for honours.

“I don’t think it is a straight chase, there are four or five teams that have a real chance” said the Canadian wing, who has scored six points in the last three games.

“Cardiff are on a great run but they can be beaten – they lost against Dundee. It won’t be a two-horse race because teams are going to slip up and Coventry’s roster is getting healthier.”

Clark is the Elite League’s fifth top goalscorer with 29 goals in 42 matches, on a par with sniper-in-chief Joey Talbot.

But Clark refuses to take any personal credit for the haul.

“It is more to do with luck than anything else” he said. “My linemates [Ben Simon and Jeff Legue] are the ones who are making it happen – they create the space, find me and all I have to do is get on the end of their passes.”

The former Wichita Thunder forward turns 30 next month hopes to bring the same success to the line up next season, too.

“I have had a blast here; it is a lot of fun in the locker room and that has made it easier for me. I came here to work hard and things seem to be falling into place.”

But for the time being Clark is more focused on the trip to seventh-placed Hull Stingrays on Saturday.

“They beat us last time we played them [7-2; December 4] and you cannot take things for granted in hockey” he said.

Hull, hoping to avoid their third straight defeat, are buoyant about their chances to make a push for a top-five finish in the Elite League.