SHEFFIELD Steeldogs head coach Andre Payette believes Basingstoke Bison go into this weekend’s EPL play-off double-header as favourites, despite finishing three places lower in the league standings.
Steeldogs travel to Basingstoke on Saturday before returning to Ice Sheffield 24 hours later in the quarter-final encounter.
And despite securing four wins out of six against Bison in the regular season Payette believes they will provide a stiff test for his young team.
“They would definitely have to be the favourites,” said Payette.
“They have an older, more experienced team and have a lot of guys that have won before.”
The Steel City’s second-tier outfit have already been experienced the pain of knockout defeat this season, after losing out to league champions Guildford Flames over two legs in the EPL Cup Final.
And Payette believes that the recent experience of playing two-legged ties will help the Steeldogs this weekend.
“The cup run has helped us in that we have played two series’ like this before,” he said.
Not only did the cup run provide good practice for Payette’s team, the defeat to Guildford in the final also served an important purpose.
“Our whole team stayed on the ice after the cup final when Guildford won and a lot of people said that was really classy thing to do, but my whole attitude was that we stayed on the ice to see them get the cup so that my guys knew what it felt like for them,” he said.
“And I will be using that moment as motivation this weekend and, hopefully, in Coventry.”
Steeldogs reached the EPL Cup Final thanks to a nail-biting 1-0 aggregate win over Milton Keynes Lightning in the semi-finals.
And the former Newcastle Vipers and Manchester Phoenix forward insists his team will adopt the same defensive approach against Bison.
“One advantage is that we are at home in the second leg,” he added. “If we can be sound defensively and put our chances away when we get them then we have every chance.
“I’ll be ecstatic to come back to Sheffield on Sunday with it being a draw or one goal either way to give us a great chance to win at home.
“Everybody needs to remember it’s a six-period game.
“We need to be really physical, finish our hits and wear them down because, while they have a bunch of older guys that have won before, we are much younger and we need to use that.
“How you do that is by constantly pounded them on Saturday and, hopefully, they’ll be feeling that on Sunday.”
With five out of the six regular season games between the two teams being close, Payette insists his team must be at their best to secure a place at the final four play-off weekend in Coventry the following week.
He said: ““It’s going to be two tough games, but it would be fantastic to top off a great season by getting to Coventry.”