LACK of silverware for the Sheffield Steelers this season would - not surprisingly - equate to a “disappointing” campaign as far as defenceman Ryan Martinelli is concerned.
But as the window continues to gradually close on what is already a very long shot to land the regular season Elite league title - the Steelers trail leaders and defending champions Cardiff Devils by 16 points with 26 games remaining - and with a quarter-final exit in the Challange Cup still fresh in the minds, opportunities for trophies this year are limited.
While there remains a mathematical possibility of catching those teams at the top - Belfast Giants are just a point behind Cardiff with Nottingham Panthers two further back - the Steelers will keep on believing.
But at some point in the next few weeks - if not already, privately - the realisation will dawn for Steelers that the play-offs remains their only realistic hope of landing that crucial piece of silverware Martinelli talks of.
This weekend sees Martinelli and the Steelers head over to his former club Belfast for a double-header, where the 32-year-old is expecting a similarly intense two games as those he experienced when Adam Keefe’s team visited South Yorkshire in early December and which resulted in a win apiece.
“The aim is always to try and win some trophies - in any season,” said Martinelli, who last year won the Challenge Cup with Belfast. “I feel like if we weren’t able to pick up a trophy this season it will have been a disappointing campaign.
“It’s certainly a big gap (in terms of the league title) and we’ve got to all put our work boots on, that’s for sure. We’re going to have to win a lot of hockey games in the second half of the season but I like our team, we’ve got a good team, we’ve got a good dressing room.”
The Steelers saw a promising three-game win streak end with a 5-3 defeat at Manchester Storm on New Year’s Day, but believes a weekend facing off against Belfast should prove an enticing one.
““When they came to ours in December, both games were high-paced, with lot of physicality - just two good teams wanting to put on a good show on both nights I’m expecting more of the same at theirs.”
Steelers’ head coach Tom Barrasso said his team were more than capable of matching their hosts over the course of two days - but only if they produced their best hockey.
He added: “I know what I’m going to get from them. They are a very good team and there is a reason why they are at the top end of the table. They are a good team, they are well-coached and well-disciplined and they skate really hard.
“My team is capable of doing all those things and when they do them we can certainly play with them as was seen when they came here recently - but it requires us to be at our best.”