JONATHAN PHILLIPS believes Braehead Clan will arrive in Sheffield tonight in something of a false position as they continue to adjust to life under new head coach John Tripp.
Previous head coach Ryan Finnerty – now at Manchester Storm and also a former boss of Phillips at Sheffield Steelers – oversaw four impressive seasons, including a second-placed finish in 2015 which brought Champions Hockey League qualification the following season.
After last night’s 3-2 defeat at home to defending Elite League champions Cardiff Devils, the Clan find themselves down in 10th place in the overall standings, with the halfway point of the season fast approaching.
So far this season, the Steelers have enjoyed success over Tripp’s side on four occasions, two 3-2 victories in the Challenge Cup followed by more handsome wins in the league.
By their own high standards, the Steelers are going through a somewhat sticky patch, losing out on the road at Cardiff last Saturday before returning home to be defeated 3-1 on home ice by Fife Flyers.
A midweek rebound was required and the Steelers duly obliged when a 6-1 victory over Dundee Stars secured a 13-3 overall triumph to secure a place in the Challenge Cup semi-finals.
Despite the one-sided nature of the tie against Omar Pacha’s team, Steelers’ captain Phillips hopes it can kickstart a period of consistency that has so far proved elusive to the five-time champions this season.
“We need to put a good run together as soon as we can,” said Phillips, whose side start a sequence of five games in 10 days with tonight’s visit from Braehead.
“It was important for us to play well against Dundee, we may have already had one foot in the semi-final because of the first leg, but after last weekend we needed to put a big performance in and I think we did.
“Braehead have changed a lot since last season, both in terms of players and the coach, and it can sometimes take time in those situations to find your feet, get the right chemistry going and find out what works best.
We may have already had one foot in the semi-final because of the first leg, but after last weekend we needed to put a big performance in and I think we did.Sheffield Steelers’ captain, Jonathan Phillips
“But they’ve got some top, skilled and fast players on that roster and they can be a threat to any team in this league, so we need to be sharp.”