Scaled-down competition didn't make final defeat easier to swallow, says Sheffield Steelers star

The EIHL 2021 mini-tournament may have been a scaled-down event, completed in five weeks, had no fans in the stands and involved only four English teams.

Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 9:35 am

But the hurt involved for Sheffield Steelers' players losing the final to biggest rival Nottingham Panthers was in no way diminished because of those Covid-enforced circumstances.

"I definitely wouldn't say we were less disappointed," said Steelers' skipper Jonathan Phillips

"Whatever game you play as a professional sportsman, that competitiveness is in you.

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Jonathan Philips has admitted that losing the EIHL mini-tournament was a huge disappointment

"If you play football in the park with your mates, you want to win. And that is exactly how this was.

"We had been building up to this (the Finals) so all the guys are disappointed that this did not go to plan."

Nottingham were worthy winners of the Play Off, a fact veteran Steelers like Phillips accepts with true sportsmanship.

He was upset, though, how his side lost too many battles up the boards and how easily they allowed Panthers skate into the neutral and defensive zones.

Sheffield had no shortage of shots in the two defeats, but not of the quality required to win the tournament.

"It is a very tactical game these days, teams are going to adjust. They (Panthers) obviously adjusted," said Phillips, referencing the obvious improvement in Nottingham's play through April and into May.

"We didn't find that extra bit of bite. Maybe we did concentrate too much on offence rather than taking care of our defensive zone and then creating our chances from there."

Phillips hasn't got much time to dwell on it.

He will be part of the 28-man Great Britain roster for the world championships in Riga.

GB will come up against Russia, Slovakia, Denmark, Belarus, Sweden, Czech Republic and Switzerland between 22nd May and 1st June.

"Going into GB, it is something totally different, the GB players can get a fresh start," added Phillips.

The winger said the EIHL tournament and the previous NIHL Spring Cup campaign with Sheffield Steeldogs had been useful for him as preparation for taking on some of the giants of world ice hockey.

The game time had helped "conditioning and getting the competitive edge back" he said.

Meanwhile, goalie Ben Bowns, who helped Nottingham win the tournament, has reacted strongly on twitter to suggestions the condensed EIHL tournament was relatively meaningless.

"It was a hell of an effort by the league and I think they did one hell of a job. A lot of people sacrificed in different ways," he wrote, adding that negative comments about the tournament were "b*****ks."