VETERAN Sheffield Steeler Rod Sarich has no desire to see his club’s biggest rivals be crowned league champions this year.
But Nottingham Panthers are nine points clear of third-placed Sheffield and hot favourites to win a trophy which represents the Holy Grail to their fans in the Lace City.
“Nottingham seem to have a better balance than previous years” he conceded.
“They have great goaltending in Craig Kowalski and seem to have improved team-defence in front of him. They have established a more complete game.
“I don’t think they are better defensively than us, but as a team they have been more consistent, and they do have more naturally gifted goalscorers in their team than us.
“In the past they have had the firepower but not the team defence, but they improved all round.
“We had a big win over them at Christmas though and have to play them again a few times so we can make up ground on them” said the Canadian defenceman, who has been struggling with a groin injury this week.
Steelers had two good away victories last weekend, but their joy was stifled slightly by the fact that Panthers had two wins over Coventry Blaze.
“They have been pretty strong all year and it is expecting a lot to think they will suddenly lose the plot” admitted Sarich.
“But the nature of sport is that surprises happen. We are not long past Christmas and there is a fair way to go. While it is do-or-die for us, we have to take it one game at a time. We did that against Belfast and then Hull last weekend.
“Cardiff went on a streak a year ago and that is what we have to do now.
“The odds are against you about going on a role, it is a tough task. But it can be done.”
Sarich says that if they are to be ultimately unsuccessful it will have been the loss of key games.
The team has lost nine in regulation time and two in overtime/penalty shots.
Losing at Coventry recently (when 3-1 up) springs to mind.
But Sarich realises that a 4-2 loss at Fife back in October was a costly error.
“Maybe we were unprepared for that.
“But we play them again on Saturday and maybe its time for retribution.
“After that it is Braehead Clan (home Sunday) who have been a Jekyll and Hyde team - but they are good on the Power Play and we cannot afford to give them that opportunity.
“After that we have to carry on trying to improve on everything we do.”