Steelers left with nowhere to hide on crucial weekend for title hopes

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RYAN Finnerty believes firm foundations have been put in place both on and off the ice to ensure a bright future for Sheffield Steelers, regardless of whether they successfully defend their Elite league title this season.

The second-placed South Yorkshire club suffered a setback to their title aspirations on Thursday night in Scotland when they dropped a point in a 4-3 overtime defeat against the Braehead Clan.

They now sit seven points behind leaders Belfast Giants with two games in hand and a double header to come next weekend between the top two sides in Northern Ireland.

It means, mathematically at least, the Steelers still control their own destiny but they head into a home double header this weekend knowing any further slip-ups will end their title hopes.

There will be an early chance for revenge when Braehead visit the Motorpoint Arena tonight (7pm) before fourth-placed Cardiff Devils arrive tomorrow (5pm).

“We don’t have anywhere to run anymore,” said Finnerty last night after he confirmed key British forward Ashley Tait will sit out the rest of the season through injury.

“We won’t give up on this title but, regardless of what happens, I think it’s clear to see that, considering where we were last summer, we’ve laid some big foundations since then to ensure a good future for the club.”

Hull Stingrays’ netminder Christian Boucher expects his team to face a backlash from Nottingham Panthers when the two sides meet at Hull Arena.

Nottingham suffered an 8-3 loss at second-bottom Dundee Stars on Thursday, enabling the Scottish club to close the gap on Hull.

“When a team suffers a loss like that, they always come out hard in the next game, so we know it’s going to be tough,” said Boucher.