TOM BARRASSO was pleased with the response he got from his Sheffield Steelers’ players over the weekend – but knows they will have to retain their competitive edge for one of the toughest 48 hours of their season.
With just eight games left, the Steelers remain in the middle of a fierce battle to make the Elite League playoffs.
In its core this is a good group of players, but you are going to have some off nights.Sheffield Steelers’ head coach, Tom Barrasso
The two points gained from Saturday night’s 4-3 home win over Coventry Blaze ensured they remain sixth in the standings, four points ahead of their West Midlands rivals who sit in ninth, one place outside the play-offs.
Four of those remaining fixtures see the Steelers play the top two of Belfast Giants and Cardiff Devils twice each.
Belfast visit Sheffield Arena on Saturday night before the Steelers take to the road the following day down to South Wales.
Head coach Barrasso was encouraged by the recovery signs shown by his players against Coventry and in the subsequent 5-4 defeat on the road at Manchester Storm on Sunday, coming just a few days after an embarrassing 6-1 home defeat to Glasgow Clan had forced him to question their compete level.
“I’m happy with the response I’ve got with the players since the Glasgow game – very much so,” said Barrasso.
“In its core this is a good group of players, but you are going to have some off nights.
“But when you’re asked to come out against a team that has already embarrassed you once and you lay an egg like we did then that is unacceptable. But they responded nicely at the weekend.”
Barrasso acknowledged the tough weekend ahead against two teams locked in a thrilling fight for the regular season title that took another twist last week when Belfast beat the Devils twice, Cardiff remaining level on points with the leaders after taking the second game into overtime.
Cardiff, in particular, have proved a tough obstacle for the Steelers to overcome, with Andrew Lord’s side winning all four previous meetings this season.
And while it has been a slightly more encouraging story whenever the Steelers have met the Giants, Adam Keefe’s side also retain the upper-hand winning three of the four contests so far.
“It certainly will be a tough weekend” said Barrasso. “Belfast are obviously a very good team, but we’ve been very competitive against them in all of the games we’ve played and we will have to make sure we take advantage of home ice.
“Cardiff are – in my opinion – the best team in the league and, in a seven-game series, they would beat any other team.”