DEFENCEMAN Tim Smith believes Sheffield Steeldogs’ ability to ‘mix it up’ is finally paying dividends in the English Premier League this season.
Player-coach Greg Wood’s side are among the form teams in the UK game’s second tier, pulling themselves into seventh spot and 12 points clear of the bottom two after enjoying a six-game winning streak in the league.
That impressive run was eventually brought to an end in a 6-3 defeat at Guildford Flames last Sunday, but only after they had extended their streak with a win by the same scoreline against Basingstoke Bison the night before.
In recent years, under former player-coach Andre Payette, the Steeldogs gained a reputation for being a physical, no-nonsense style of team.
But, under his replacement, blue-liner Smith said the young, developing roster was becoming more and more confident with each passing weekend.
“All the teams in the EPL are used to us playing one style but, this season, we have a team that can actually play,” said Smith, whose team travels to East Yorkshire to take on a Hull Pirates team desperate for points to retain any hope of making the end-of-season play-offs.
Dominic Osman’s team already find themselves 12 points adrift of that all-important eighth place.
“We are confident,” added Smith. “We can pass, we are a quick team and we are fit.
“We have a bit of everything and if we need to play tough then we can. If we need to play with more skill, patience and control then we do.
“We play how Woody (player-coach Greg Wood) wants us to and one of his main messages has been ‘be patient’.”
Sunday marks the first visit in the league this season to Hull for Wood’s players, having won both previous league meetings between the two sides on home ice in October.
There is plenty of added interest to tonight’s fixture as it marks a first meeting between the two sides since former Steeldogs owner, Shane Smith, left Sheffield to concentrate his efforts on strengthening the Pirates franchise in East Yorkshire with player-coach Osman.
Smith had stepped in to launch the Pirates after the demise of the city’s former ice hockey club, Hull Stingrays, who had played in the Elite League.
After tonight’s trip to Hull, the Steeldogs entertain Manchester Phoenix on Monday night (7.30pm) in the second leg of their traditional War of the Roses clash, Wood’s team leading 5-4 from the first leg across the Pennines.