ON paper at least, trailing league leaders by 13 points at any stage of the season would seem a daunting prospect for any team.
After having played just over a quarter of their scheduled 52 games in the Elite League, that is exactly where defending champions Sheffield Steelers find themselves.
But, while fully aware of the imposing gap between his team and the Cardiff Devils, Steelers’ head coach Paul Thompson insists it is nothing that concerns him and his players.
With six games in hand on Cardiff and another five meetings between the top two still to come, there is every reason for the Steelers’ to believe that they can repeat their championship-winning exploits of the past two seasons.
“We had a meeting about it as a team and I think that if you look at it too much, it does look a bit daunting,” said Thompson. “But we’ve won this league on the last day of the season for the past two years and we’re fully focused on climbing the mountain and to keep putting that pickaxe into the ice just above our heads and to keep pulling ourselves up and taking it one step at a time – to keep chipping away.
“And I know this is a cliche, but we are here for the long haul – it is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Steelers will want to ‘chip away’ at the deficit as soon as possible, although this weekend presents them with a further tough examination of their suitability for a third straight title with a double-header against arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers.
Tonight takes them to the National Ice Centre before the two lock horns at Sheffield Arena tomorrow (5pm).
The Panthers will be looking to exact revenge after being thrashed 8-1 by the Steelers in the most recent meeting between the two in South Yorkshire last month.
But Thompson, who will make a late call on whether forward Yared Hagos has recovered fully from a concussion, is confident in his team’s ability to deal with whatever comes their way.
“We push these boys extremely hard, every day,” added Thompson. “But, with this lot, we’ve got a good bunch of honest pros who they turn up every day and give us everything.
“I really like the way we’re playing right now even though we lost last Sunday in Cardiff. I like the way we’re practising, I like our attitude at the rink on and off the ice and you can’ really ask for any more than that.”
We’re fully focused on climbing the mountain and to keep putting that pickaxe into the ice just above our heads and to keep pulling ourselves up and taking it one step at a time – to keep chipping away.Sheffield Steelers coach, Paul Thompson.