Sheffield Steelers: Skipper confident of ending club's Challenge Cup hoodoo

Jonathan Phillips is a cool, placid kind of guy.

By Bob Westerdale
Monday, 9th December 2019, 2:54 pm
Steelers’ Jonathan Phillips. Pic: Hayley Roberts.

But if there is one thing that gets on his wick, it's Sheffield Steelers’ record in the Challenge Cup. Or rather people talking about it.

Since the Elite League era started in 2003, Sheffield have failed every time they have appeared in the finals.

In that first EIHL season of 2003-4, they lost to Nottingham Panthers. In 2006-7, Coventry Blaze were the underdog winners over them.

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Panthers collected the cup at Steelers' expense in 2007-8 and 2012-13 - Nottingham have landed the trophy more than any other team. All of these matches were over two-legs.

But when the format changed to a single event, Sheffield lost finals to Cardiff Devils in 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons, while Belfast Giants have had the pot on their mantelpiece for the past two seasons.

So does the third most important prize in UK domestic ice hockey not carry huge significance at the House of Steel? Fans might start to find out on Wednesday night, when Steelers host Manchester Storm in the quarter-final first leg.

Skipper Phillips said: "The cup is important to us.

“I’m fed up of people reminding me it’s the only trophy we haven’t won in the Elite League era.

"We’ve made finals and semi-finals but never lifted it. I guess we were too busy winning leagues and play-offs."

Phillips, whose team returned from Belfast after splitting the weekend series in league play, added: "This is a team that can end the drought but only if we engage and are fully committed. We have shown with the performances against Nottingham Panthers and Belfast Giants, recently, that we have the tools."

Robert Dowd missed out last weekend, through injury.

"Hopefully Dowdy will be back with us for Wednesday," said Phillips.

"It’s important we start this two-legged quarter final on the front foot. We need to win the game and put the pressure back on them for the following week.

"We have the upmost respect for Ryan Finnerty (coach) and Manchester. Everyone talks about their home form and it’s been good against us but look at their numbers on the road. Wednesday will be a dog fight."

The away leg takes place in Altrincham on Wednesday, December 18.