Crunch time: Sheffield Steelers focus on Braehead before Cardiff Devils showdown

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SHEFFIELD STEELERS’ captain Jonathan Phillips insists his team cannot afford to get too far ahead of themselves as they enter a crunch weekend in their bid to retain the Elite League title.

Most eyes will already be looking forward to Sunday night’s clash in South Wales which pits third-placed Steelers against leaders Cardiff Devils.

The term ‘must-win’ is often over-used in sport but, make no mistake, anything less for the Steelers tomorrow could prove potentially fatal to their challenge for regular season honours.

But Phillips says he and his team-mates will not even think about their last trip of the season to Cardiff until they have come through tonight’s Ice Sheffield clash against visitors Braehead Clan.

“One of the things that Thommo (Steelers’ head coach, Paul Thompson) has talked about a lot this week is that we really cannot think past Saturday night,” said Phillips.

“A win on Sunday will mean nothing if we don’t beat Braehead the night before. They are a strong, offensive-minded team and if we’re not switched on they will definitely hurt us.”

The Steelers enter the weekend in decent form, four straight wins seeing them close the gap on second-placed Belfast Giants, while hauling them to within five points of Cardiff with a game in hand and three encounters against the leaders still to come, including Sunday.

Phillips knows a win in Cardiff is essential to Steelers’ hopes of continuing to control their own destiny and is not keen on relying on favours elsewhere to help them overhaul the Devils.

“If we win our game in hand and beat Cardiff this Sunday then – assuming other games of ours go for us – we’ll just be the one point behind them,” added Phillips, whose team have agonisingly lost their last three visits to Cardiff 3-2.

“If we don’t win, we’re then five points behind them and we only them play them two more times in the regular season so you’re then getting into the territory of relying on other teams to do you favours and you don’t want to be in that situation coming down the home stretch.

“The last three games we’ve played there have been fantastic, games which could have gone either way – but they’ve just come out on top each time.”