IN nine home games this season, Sheffield Steelers have lost only twice - both times against Cardiff Devils.
The South Wales club pay a third visit of the season to Sheffield Arena on Friday night sitting top of the Elite League standings - five points clear of nearest rivals Steelers who, importantly, have four games in hand.
For the past two seasons, the two have gone neck-and-neck until the final weekend, when the Steelers have prevailed on each occasion to clinch the regular season title.
Understandably, Steelers’ head coach Paul Thompson, who presided over the second of those title wins last season, is happy for that pattern to continue, but he acknowledges that his team need to up their performance levels in order to avoid a third straight defeat on home ice to Cardiff.
“They’re a good team, with good players, good size and they can keep the puck, especially in the offensive zone,” said Thompson.
“Like ourselves they have a little bit of everything, but we’ve not played to our full potential against them at home this year so far.
“We played a very good road game against them, but at home we’ve not shown that consistent 60 minutes and we’re going to have to make sure we do that this time.”
Cardiff head north to Sheffield on the back of two straight losses in the league - both on the road - although they did return to winning ways when beating Manchester Storm in their final Challenge Cup Group B game last Sunday.
The Steelers approach the game in relatively fine fettle, having lost just once in eight games, that defeat coming at Dundee two weeks ago which they quickly avenged last weekend with a 5-4 shoot-out win.
Steelers forward Colton Fretter, meanwhile, has been named the Elite League Player of the Week, following his performances last weekend.
We’ve not played to our full potential against them at home this year.Paul Thompson, Sheffield Steelers, head coach.
The 34-year-old played an integral part in back-to-back wins for the Steelers, scoring twice in Saturday’s 8-1 win over Nottingham at Sheffield Arena before adding a goal and two assists in Sunday night’s shoot-out victory in Dundee.
On the huge win over arch-rivals Nottingham, Fretter said: “Every time we get a chance to play against Nottingham it is a huge rivalry and a fun game to be involved in. We came out very strong strong and we just kept going and once we got one, we got two and three and we kept going.”