RYAN Finnerty is convinced Braehead Clan are priming themselves for a top-four finish in the Elite League.
The Sheffield Steelers’ player-coach takes his team to Glasgow tonight to face the in-form Clan, who sit fifth on the back of a six-game winning streak.
Last season saw the Scottish club finish fifth in their first season in the league before a change of coach in the summer saw former Hull Stingrays assistant Drew Bannister succeed Bruce Richardson.
It’s been another season of progress for the Clan and, with a game in hand on fourth-placed Cardiff Devils, who they trail by six points, Braehead look well-placed to surpass last season’s achievements.
After tonight, the Steelers head east to face Fife Flyers in Kirkcaldy before returning home on Sunday to welcome struggling Edinburgh Capitals.
With his side seven points adrift of leaders Belfast Giants, but with four games in hand, Finnerty knows a maximum return this weekend would turn up the heat on their title rivals.
“You can’t discredit anything Braehead have done recently,” said Finnerty. “They’ve taken points off everybody this year and it’s going to be very difficult.
“I think they are definitely trying to push for that fourth spot and I wouldn’t rule them out from achieving that.”
Forward Neil Clark, scorer of two goals in Tuesday night’s 5-1 win at home over Fife Flyers, misses out tonight as the team’s ‘spare’ import, but is expected to see action in the other two games.
“Braehead have got such good offence in (Jade) Galbraith and (Jordan) Krestanovich that I feel we need to go with five defencemen,” added Finnerty.
OFF the ice, the Steelers have teamed up with a local pub-restaurant to help feed their play-off ambitions.
Finnerty and his players will visit the new Flaming Grill Restaurant ‘The Belfry’, on Eckington Road, Beighton, shortly after it re-opens following a £400,000 transformation and refurbishment which has created 30 jobs.
The Steelers squad will eat at the restaurant on Friday, March 30, the night before their first Elite League quarter-final play-off game.
Assistant coach Ashley Tait, pictured, said: “Hockey players can smell a new Steak Restaurant at 20 miles and I’m sure the opening will go with a bang - the renovations look amazing.”