Sheffield Steelers title challenge is far from over, just ask the owner

Four straight wins by Sheffield Steelers have reinvigorated the players, the fans, and the club's management.

Friday, 1st April 2022, 12:24 pm

The drive for the title is still hanging on a knife-edge.

While Belfast Giants remain in pole position, Sheffield have shown Belfast are beatable on any night.

And a repeat or two of Sheffield's last victory over the Northern Irish will be needed to land the trophy, South Yorkshire club owner Tony Smith says.

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Of the seven remaining Steeler fixtures, three are against Adam Keefe's on-form roster. The dates for your diary are April 9 and 10 (home) and 15 (away.)

Smith knows there is a fan-base clamour for Sheffield, who host Nottingham Panthers on Saturday, to land the title that has eluded them since 2016.

But he is also a pragmatist - there is hardly any discernible difference in quality between his side and Belfast's.

Asked for his thoughts on a worst-case scenario and his club falls short, he said: "There will be lots of reasons if we don't win the league.

A triumphant scene as Steelers beat Belfast at home earlier in the season

"Injuries will play a part, but I am not going to use injuries as the excuse, we have been unlucky but so have other teams in the League.

"We will do the best we can for the fans, it will be very close, a tight run-in," Smith said in a recent interview.

"We have got Belfast to play three times, and that could be the difference between winning and losing the Elite League."

Smith thinks that whoever performs the best during that six-day phase will be eventual champions.

"We have two games against the Giants both at home but the main game will be the final game of the season in Belfast, a great setting."

He said when the fixture was organised last June, few could have expected that last game to be so significant.

Before Sheffield's run of four wins, they'd lost five out of six games, so it is a relief for the supporters that they are still very much in with a shot.

The owner says that spell of inconsistency had not worried him, the sport was all about coping with highs and lows, he said.

"Steelers have played some great hockey this year, we have played some not-so-great hockey. That is the nature of the sport, players cannot always be expected to be on top of the game.

"And that is the reality of it. We're not disappointed with anything that has happened this year.

"We are second in the league, we have been top for a long time, I'd take that every day..but probably not at the end of the season.

"I want us to be number one, but the main thing is the product we are putting out there the fans enjoy and that is the key to this, you have got to please the fans...that's the be-all and end-all."

Below is the League's own number-crunching breakdown of the run-in:

- Both teams' can attain maximum points of 88.

- The first tie-break is 'Regulation Wins' which Belfast lead by 33 to Sheffield's 29.

- If Giants win four more games in regulation, they cannot be caught on the tie-breaker. This changes if Steelers win any further games in overtime, or lose.