COVENTRY BLAZE assistant coach Ashley Tait admits time is running out for his team’s Challenge Cup chances as they head into a weekend double header with Sheffield Steelers.
The Blaze have endured a stuttering start to the 2016-17 campaign and know two points are vital from Saturday night’s Group B encounter with the Steelers if they are to entertain any hopes of making it to the knockout phase.
The two sides meet again on Sunday night in the league at Coventry’s SkyDome Arena.
A win from the first encounter would put the Steelers in the driving seat to top the group as they seek to win the competition for the first time in the Elite League era.
But former Steelers’ favourite Tait, who won two league titles and two play-off trophies in South Yorkshire, admits Coventry are well aware that their own quarter-final hopes hang by a thread, the West Midlands club sitting bottom of the table and three points behind Manchester Storm with just three group games remaining.
“We’ve struggled to get out of the group stages in this competition for a couple of years now and that has been noted in the changing room,” said Tait.
“So we know we need to turn up and have a good weekend and make sure we get one foot in the knockout phase of the cup. Two points on Saturday would go a long way to us achieving that.”
A stop-and-start opening to the campaign is nothing unusual for Coventry in recent years, but Tait believes head coach Danny Stewart is the man to bring lo9ng-term success back to the club.
The pair played one season alongside each other for Coventry in 2006-07 helping deliver a league and Challenge Cup double before Tait switched north for his first spell with the Steelers.
Stewart stuck around for another three seasons and two league titles before moving to the ill-fated Newcastle Vipers as player-coach.
Five seasons followed as a player-assistant coach to Todd Dutiaume before he was picked to succeed Chuck Weber.
“We’ve seen flashes of the team we can be and how we need to be to be successful, but it’s just not been consistent enough for 60 minutes,” said Tait.
“But I think Danny will be successful here. It’s a bedding-in period really, not just for Danny but for the club as a whole.
“As a coach I think he realises your words need to have the right effect at the right time on your players and he knows when you need to say certain things, which is a very important quality.”
Steelers head into the weekend in good form but a man down after star centre Tyler Mosienko surprisingly left the club on Friday, having activated a release clause in his contract.
“Tyler came to see me earlier in the week and explained that he wished to leave and head back to mainland Europe,” said Steelers’ head coach, Paul Thompson.
“His decision came as a surprise as we were happy with him and certainly wished him to remain a part of our team going forward.
“As a club we have tried everything within reason to retain him, but his wish is that he leaves us and returns to the mainland.”