WHILE an ability to ‘stick to the game plan’ is often integral to the success of any team, captain Jonathan Phillips said Sheffield Steelers’ season now rests just as much on players finding the “passion” and “desire” to succeed.
With 15 games remaining the post-season picture looks no rosier for the Steelers than it did two weeks ago, with Tom Barrasso’s side occupying the eighth and final play-off spot.
Dundee Stars and Coventry Blaze are the two teams outside the play-off picture both breathing down the Steelers’ necks, while there is only a three-point gap between the SouthYorkshire club and fifth-placed Fife Flyers.
Needless to say the standings could all look a lot different come Sunday night making it even more imperative that Barrasso’s team give up nothing to their rivals, particularly Coventry who travel to leaders Cardiff Devils tonight before hosting the Steelers tomorrow.
Before then there is the small matter of tonight’s visit to Sheffield Arena from a similarly out-of-sorts Nottingham Panthers.
The Panthers may currently sit third, but like the Steelers have been dogged by inconsistency for most of the campaign and are in danger of being overhauled by a resurgent Glasgow Clan under the leadership of GB head coach Pete Russell.
Last month’s firing of Rich Chernomaz has failed to rid the Panthers of their inconsistency ahead of tonight’s encounter, which Phillips believes has come at the right time for the hosts.
“These sort of big games, no matter how well we’ve been doing or not, this rivalry seems to bring the best out of everybody,” he said. “The flipside, obviously, is that it also does that for them.
“We’ve just got to make sure it is a really intense battle. We’re so late in the season it has to be about passion and that desire to win, that will to win.
“You can put as many Xs and Os in place as you want, but now it is just time for the passion to come through in our game.”
With Coventry just one point behind the Steelers and having four games in hand, Phillips admits his team cannot afford to come off as the losing side on either night this weekend.
“We have to approach every game as a must-win,” added Phillips. “We have to go out every night with a do-or-die attitude and if we can do that we can start breaking away from the pack we are currently in the middle of. That has to be our mindset.”
Hull Pirates will look to put the agony of last week’s North Cup semi-final defeat to Sheffield Steeldogs behind them when they return to North One action tonight.
Jason Hewitt’s side were edged out by Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Steeldogs on penalty shots after the two sides could not be separated at 6-6 after overtime in the second leg.
We’ve just got to make sure it is a really intense battle. We’re so late in the season it has to be about passion and that desire to win, that will to win.Sheffield Steelers’ Jonathan Phillips
Third-placed Hull will resume their attempts to close the gap on leaders Telford Tigers and second-placed Sheffield when they host Blackburn Hawks tonight.
The Steeldogs - one point ahead of Hull and a point back off Telford - enjoy a home double header, first hosting Solihull Barons tonight before welcoming Billingham Stars 24 hours later.
Hull head up the coast on Sunday to take on fifth-placed Whitley Warriors.