NEIL Clark hopes Nottingham Panthers’ vociferous fans are at their merciless worst on Saturday in the Play Off semi-final against his Sheffield Steelers’ team.
The home support at NIC raredly missed a chance to verbally harass or pour scorn on their title-winning rivals.
It makes for a powderkeg atmosphere this weekend.
But if Panthers’ fans think they will unnerve Steelers skaters generally, and Clark in particular, they are sorely mistaken.
The modest former AHL and IHL winger insists that he is an average player who actually benefits from crowd interaction to help him step up a level.
The Canadian winger told The Star: “Their fans are going to be against us, obviously and you just rise to that sort of occasion, if you can.
“I have always been an underdog in my career, I never had the talent to go to the top but I have always battled well against pressure and I thrive on that. It makes average players raise their games.”
Asked if he would find the NIC intimidating, he said: “I think it’s hilarious. If they are going to come out and pay to heckle and jeer you then that’s great I am happy for that, that really raises my game.
“I become more aware (in situations like that) and they actually feed me energy - whilst if you just leave me alone I can be terrible with the rest of them!”
Clark said it was fitting that the top four teams in the country had made the semi final stages, Belfast Giants and Cardiff Devils face each other in the later, semi final.
“There isn’t much between the top four teams; they were within a couple of points of each other in the league but this is a whole fresh season.”
Clark’s team-mate Derek Campbell thinks Steeler must go for Panthers’ defence from the off.
“We have to attack. When we forecheck well and really go after their ‘D’ they make mistakes. Everything starts from the defence and when we attack their’s I think we will be at their weak point.”
Campbell added: “I don’t think playing in Nottingham is going to be that much of an advantage for them, because of the amount of other fans in the rink. It is Play Off weeknend. When we grew up that’s all it was about, not winning the league. It reminds you of back home and every guy is going to be up for it. We don’t like Nottingham and they don’t like us.”
Team mate Rob Globke can’t wait for Saturday’s clash, either. “That’s what we play for, that’s the fun game. We’ll be ready to play. We’ve played well in Nottingham this year, when there is a game of that magnitude it is easy to get up for it.”