Sheffield Steelers’ player-coach Ben Simon insists this weekend’s double-header against the Cardiff Devils will not determine the outcome of the Elite League title race, writes Phil Harrison.
Current leaders Steelers go into tonight’s game in South Wales, six points ahead of the second-placed Devils, who have two matches in hand. The two sides do it all again tomorrow night at the Motorpoint Arena (5.00).
But despite the undoubted importance of this weekend, both teams face further tests between now and the end of the regular season which will also decide where the league title finally rests.
Steelers have come close to taking something from all three of their previous trips to Cardiff this season, most frustratingly letting a two-goal lead slip in a 3-2 defeat back in December.
Cardiff thrashed the Steelers 7-1 in South Yorkshire in January as part of their 21-game winning streak which catapulted them to the top of the standings, but player-coach Gerad Adams’s team go into tonight’s clash having lost three of their last five games.
Sheffield – who boast the league’s best special teams – have lost only once in the last 12, that coming last Saturday in a 4-3 shoot-out defeat to Nottingham Panthers.
“The season isn’t going to be all about this weekend,” said Simon. “Even if we won both games against Cardiff we still have to play Belfast twice as well as facing some other tough games – so there’s plenty of hockey to come.
“At the moment, we are only thinking about the game in Cardiff. What we have to make sure we do down there is compete hard against a very tough and talented team.
“We’ve gone close every time we’ve been down there but they’ll be comfortable in their own building. They did go on that long winning streak a while back, but they’ve lost a couple recently so they’ll be hungry for the win.”