ASHLEY TAIT could only look on and admire former club Shefield Steelers as they marched to the Elite League play-off semi-finals on the back of a convincing win over Coventry Blaze.
Back in Coventry for a second time in his long and successful career, Tait admitted the West Midlands’ team failure to discover any kind of consistency during 2013-14 had been the main reason behind a disappointing campaign at the SkyDome Arena, the four-time league champions’ place in the play-offs only being confirmed on the final night of the regular season.
On Tuesday night, the Blaze were found wanting and were hammered 6-1 by the Steelers at the Motorpoint Arena, Gerad Adams’s side running out 9-3 winners over the course of the two legs.
Like Coventry, the South Yorkshire club have also struggled for consistency at times this season but, since Adams’s arrival to replace the sacked Doug Christiansen at the end of February, they have gone on to enjoy their most impressive run of results to date, losing only two of his 11 games in charge.
Adams will now lock horns with former Steelers’ coach Ryan Finnerty, who has enjoyed a successful first season in charge of Braehead Clan, guiding them to Saturday’s semi-final at the National Ice Centre.
Tait, who enjoyed two spells in South Yorkshire, scoring 304 points, including 107 goals in 273 appearances, wouldn’t be drawn on predicting an outcome to Saturday’s clash between the two teams – which follows the earlier semi-final between league champions Belfast Giants and Fife Flyers – but admitted the Steelers had impressed him in recent weeks.
“They have a lot of depth and each line - even Hewitt, Phillips and Spencer - offensively can hurt you as well – there just isn’t any let-up,” said Tait.
“It doesn’t matter which of their lines is out - some teams like to match lines – but, for me, any of their three lines can play against any line in the league.
“It’s going to be an interesting weekend in Nottingham. I’ve got a lot of good friends at Sheffield, I’m pretty good friends with Finner (Ryan Finnerty) as well as Matt Towe and Lee Esders.
“I know a lot of guys at Belfast too, so I’m going to sit right in the middle of the fence!”
As for Coventry’s season, Tait was candid in his appraisal. Like the Steelers, the Blaze switched coaches with Marc LeFebvre, assistant under Christiansen, taking over from Matt Soderstrom, who was jettisoned by the Blaze ownership in February.
LeFebvre managed to get Coventry over the line and into the ;post-season but, Tait said, inconsistency had dogged the team for most of the year.
“We’ve just been inconsistent and haven’t been able to put a bunch of wins together,” added Tait.
“Sometimes if you’re not playing well but still picking up points that makes a huge difference – but we’ve not been able to do that.
“We’ve had injuries, we’ve been missing key players and we just haven’t been able to pick up the slack and that is what has kind of killed us.”
Immediately following Tuesday night’s heavy defeat, Tait had no argument with the result, or the scoreline.
“It was tight in that first period, but we just couldn’t get a goal,” he said. “Had we have done it could have changed things, but then they scored three quick goals in the middle part of the second period and it just killed the game off - it knocked the stuffing out of us.
“I think this game was a fair reflection of how the season has gone for us.”