SHEFFIELD STEELERS’ hopes of a sixth Elite League title disappeared a long time ago – well before Christmas, in fact.
But Steelers’ defenceman Ben O’Connor is still keen to see the Steelers test their credentials against those who remain in the title hunt with this weekend presenting the perfect opportunity.
The 30-year-old GB international is also keen for the South Yorkshire club to have a say in the final destination of the title. Their first chance to do so comes on home ice tonight when current leaders Belfast Giants make their last visit of the season.
Tomorrow the Steelers will hit the road for their final trip to two-time defending champions Cardiff Devils, who sit second to Belfast only by virtue of having one less win in regulation – and with a game in hand.
While the top two will be keen to avoid any slip-ups in a race that is likely to go down to the final weekend, the Steelers have just as much of a need for the points on offer, embroiled as they are in a six-way battle for four play-off spots.
So far this season the Steelers have lost their four previous clashes with Cardiff, while encounters with Belfast have been slightly more favourable in four meetings, Tom Barrasso’s side winning one and taking a point from an overtime defeat in Belfast in January.
“We’re clearly not going to win the league, but we can have a say in who does, particularly this weekend,” said O’Connor.
“They are both clearly very good teams. I think Belfast have more individual skill, they have got some really good players, but you look at how well Andrew Lord gets his players to play for him at Cardiff and you can see why they are back-to-back champions.
“Belfast are a great team, but to knock Cardiff off their perch is going to be a huge ask.”
O’Connor said this weekend’s games were the perfect opportunity for the Steelers to raise their game, particularly with so much at stake for all three clubs.
“It’s going to be a good weekend of hockey against two very good teams playing at a good, fast tempo.
“It will be good for us to be pushed to play at that level.”
We’re clearly not going to win the league but we can have a say in who does, particularly this weekend,Ben O’Connor