THE lure of playing a Challenge Cup final on home ice is fuelling Sheffield Steelers’ desire to end their long wait for the trophy , says defenceman Mark Thomas.
The Steelers take on Nottingham Panthers tonight at the Motorpoint Arena in the first leg of an eagerly-anticpated semi-final between the fierce rivals.
With the final scheduled for Steelers’ home rink on Sunday, March 8, Thomas said there was no better incentive for the Steelers ahead of tonight.
Nottingham, who the Steelers have defeated in the two most recent league meetings between the two, have won the competition a remarkable six times in the last seven years.
“When we realised the final was going to be in our rink, we set out at the start of the season to make sure we are there for it,” said Thomas, who this week saw former team-mates Jody Lehman, Steve Munn, Scott Basiuk and Randy Dagenais return from Canada to help mark two nights of celebrations to mark his testimonial season.
“It’s something that has always got away from us in my time here and we all desperately want to win this Cup. It would also be nice to end Nottingham’s domination of the Cup too.
“Having beaten them twice recently, we’re confident going into the two games.
“But we know all too well how good a team they are too.”
Tonight’s clash marks the beginning of a pivotal period in Steelers’ season as they play six games in 11 days.
League games at the weekend against Coventry and Belfast follow tonight’s first leg, with a trips to Hull Stingrays and Coventry coming after next Tuesday’s semi-final second leg in at the National Ice Centre.