HULL PIRATES and Sheffield Steeldogs have already enjoyed their fair share of battles this season - but rival coaches Jason Hewitt and Ben Morgan would dearly love their players to have one final chance to square up to each other.
Three weeks ago, Hewitt’s Hull team pipped their fierce Yorkshire rivals to the North One Moralee league title in Sheffield on the final day of the regular season before, last weekend, beating them over two legs in the North Play-off final.
Overall, the fierce Yorkshire rivals have met 12 times this season - Hull winning seven times - but they could yet meet once more in tomorrow’s NIHL Final Four Weekend in Coventry.
In order for that to happen, both need to overcome tough obstacles in their way in today’s semi-finals against opponents from the South One league. Hull are first up at the SkyDome Arena against Bracknell Bees, before Sheffield take to the ice to face Peterborough Phantoms.
Hull will be looking to end the season with a treble, but player-coach Hewitt is expecting a tough time from a familiar face on the opposite bench in the shape of former team-mate Doug Sheppard.
The two played alongside each other for three seasons at Sheffield Steelers between 2007-10, with Sheppard player-assistant coach to Dave Matsos as they won an Elite League title and two play-off trophies before the 42-year-old moved to Slough Jets.
Sheppard spent two seasons in Slough before moving to Basingstoke Bison where he spent six seasons - winning a league title and a play-off title - before switching to Bracknell last summer.
“We had a good few years playing together and we’re still good friends,” said Hewitt. “He’s a good, well-seasoned coach and I expect Bracknell to probably be one of the best prepared teams that we’ll face all year.
“If we get through, it would be huge for us as an organisation if we can finish off the season by winning the play-offs. In an ideal world, if we get through to Sunday, I’d like us to play Sheffield again because I believe those games are the most exciting at this level.”
Morgan would move nothing more than to meet Hull one more time on Sunday, as his side chase a double of their own having won the North Cup earlier this year against Telford.
In an ideal world, if we get through, I’d like us to play Sheffield again because those games are the most exciting at this level.Hull Pirates’ player-coach, Jason Hewitt
While Hull will be facing their semi-final opponents for the first time this season, the Steeldogs will come up a more familiar foe in the shape of Slava Koulikov’s Peterborough having played them four times in 2018-19, including a 6-5 aggregate loss in the Autumn Cup final in December.
“We’d love it if Hull and ourselves got through to the final,” admitted Morgan.
“We know the type of hockey that Slava likes to play, so we know the type of gameplan that we want to try and impose on Peterborough.
“As everyone knows, with the new league coming in, next season is going to be completely different so to be able to play Peterborough and, fingers crossed, then Hull or Bracknell, it is going to be a good yardstick to see where we measure up against these other teams.”