SHEFFIELD Steelers’ player-coach Ryan Finnerty believes his team can turn their form around and seal a place at the Elite League play-off finals weekend in Nottingham – but only if they can rediscover their ‘passion’.
First up this weekend, however, the 2011-12 regular season runners-up face a difficult first-round two-legged tie against Yorkshire rivals Hull Stingrays.
The Steelers go into the two games – the first of which is in Hull tomorrow night (7pm) – in something of a slump, having lost four of their last five games, a run which began with a 5-2 defeat at Belfast Giants that handed the title to their Northern Irish rivals.
Another of Steelers’ four defeats came against Hull just two nights later, when a 4-3 scoreline saw Sylvain Cloutier’s team finally get the better of their rivals this season at the eighth attempt.
Given the way Hull finished the season with a 6-2 win over Dundee Stars last Sunday – in doing so sealing seventh place – there are some already predicting play-off heartache for the Steelers.
But Finnerty, who stunned fans earlier this week by sacking popular forward Colt King, believes his players are capable of ending their bad run.
“I’m very confident the guys in the room can turn things around,” said Finnerty.
“After the league title disappeared in Belfast last Friday we had a bit of a pity party for ourselves and we haven’t played our best since.
“The guys should be motivated for this. It’s a great trophy to win and it’s exciting playing in Nottingham. But, before we can even start thinking about next week, we’ve got a ton of work to do against Hull, who are going to play chippy and come out at us hard.
“Missing out on the title should make us a more desperate team going into the play-offs. The guys were gutted and disappointed that we couldn’t close out the regular season after coming so close, but we’ve now got an opportunity to put four games together and win a trophy.
“We need to get the passion back which I feel has been lacking.”
Stingrays’ goaltender Christian Boucher admits the East Yorkshire club will go into the weekend as clear underdogs, but believed enjoying home ice first could provide a crucial advantage.
“We’ve won our last two games here, so why not make it three?” said Boucher. “Apart from the one game, we’ve always matched up well against Sheffield.
“It’s two games and we’ve got nothing to lose, particularly at home in the first leg when we can get our fans behind us.
“If we can take a lead into their place it would certainly crank up the pressure on them even more.”