Sheffield Steelers will be back at their best, vows Davey Phillips

Sheffield Steelers will be back to their normal selves when they take on Fife Flyers in the Challenge Cup quarter-final tomorrow night.

Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 11:05 am

Aaron Fox' s men were slow starters and pushed to the limits during a 4-3 overtime win on Sunday against Guildford Flames, their first match in 13 days.

Now with a schedule likely to feature eight games in 18 days, they need to do better.

And defenceman Davey Phillips believes they can do exactly that.

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Davey Phillips in action on Sunday. Pic Dean Woolley.

"There are pros and cons about having time off. You can get rest for bumps and bruises and rest mentally, but the flip side is we had been on a good roll and keeping our match fitness" he says.

"I noticed at the start of each period (against Guildford) we were a little bit flat and it took us a few minutes to get back into it.

"This is not an excuse but after time off it is going to take a game to get back to where we were.

"When you are playing games all the time you are in the groove with momentum, this has been a long time to go without a game, even if it doesn't sound a lot."

John Armstrong.

Phillips said last Sunday's encounter will turn out to be a useful run-out.

"It will get us back to where we were, we got that one out of the way and we'll be back in the normal swing of things."

The GB defenceman said the cluttered fixture list would not be an issue for the team's older players.

"You could say for older players it is more demanding on the body, but on the other side, they are used to it. With things like recovery and eating properly...they have done it before.

Tanner Eberle.

"Their experience in managing the body is key. All the other teams are in the same position with a lot of games as well."

Phillips said lots of matches, at the expense of training, appealed to him: "Practice is all right but I like playing games."

The skater will be on the Arena blue line against Fife in the first leg.

"We are four games away from the final - that trophy is in sight now we are out of the Group stages."

Sheffield fans filled 4,352 seats against Guildford - probably some put off by the Covid transmission rates.

"It wasn't as many as we usually have out there, which is understandable with the situation," said Phillips.

"But I think the crowd feeds off us, we have got to give them something to cheer about. Whether it is a goal or a big hit.

"We had the experience of no fans in the Elite Series - there is no excuse you have just got to have the attitude of us v the opposition and that is it."

Coach Fox, whose team will be without latest Covid-victim Justin Hodgman against Fife, says John Armstrong and Tanner Eberle's fitness will be evaluated before the game.

The first leg was supposed to have been away but the fixtures were changed.

Fox recognises the importance of establishing a decent lead.

"This is one of the trophies we set our sights on before the season started," he said.

"I thought we had a good preliminary round.

"Fife are playing better hockey than when the year first started; they have added a couple of players."

Fox said the thought the eight games in 18 days was manageable, but the time span would be light on training.

"I don't think we will practice much through this stretch, there will be rest and recovery and then game time, it's all down to what our bodies look like.

"If we lose a couple then we will get thin and ugly pretty quick, saying that short benched we have played good hockey and showed high character."