CAPTAIN Jonathan Phillips says Sheffield Steelers still have time to turn their season around – but they need to act fast.
A 4-1 defeat at home to arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers on Saturday night was the latest setback for the Yorkshire club’s Elite League title aspirations, stretching their losing streak in the league to five games.
All those defeats have come against so-called “bigger” teams, clubs rightfully considered to be among Steelers’ main rivals for the regular season trophy.
The latest loss was the third straight against Nottingham and the fourth out of five against Corey Neilson’s team in league play.
It was enough to see Nottingham leapfrog Steelers in the standings and leave their ailing rivals in fifth place, seven points behind leaders Braehead Clan.
But, with 22 games remaining in the regular season, Phillips is confident time is still on Steelers’ side - just.
“There’s enough time to turn this around,” said Phillips. “In this league people know that anything can happen now with everyone beating everybody else.
As a group we need to find what the problem is and stamp it out now.
“These have been five big games which we needed to win, especially our home games on Boxing Day and here tonight. Whatever the problem is we need to find it now, otherwise things are going to slip too far away.”
Watch Gerad Adams’s post-match interview HERE
Phillips acknowledged that mistakes were proving too costly for his team, something which was evident again on Saturday night at the Motorpoint Arena.
Former Hull Stingrays’ forward Guillaume Doucet marked his debut for the East Midlands club by tipping in past Frank Doyle from Robert Farmer’s shot at 12.36 before, just under five minutes later, Cody Wild struck to double the lead for the visitors.
Goaltender Frank Doyle was powerless to prevent a third for the Panthers when Bruce Graham was left free to dance around him and poke the puck home at 34.40 and, with only 23 seconds remaining in the period, Brandon Benedict’s fifth of the season made it 4-0.
As in the second period, the Steelers enjoyed plenty of possession in the final section and did eventually get on the board through the returning Mathieu Roy, the league’s leading points scorer grabbing his 24th of the campaign by tipping in Ben O’Connor’s shot at 51.44. But that was as close as they got.
“We’re working hard, we’re all over teams, but they are just praying on our mistakes and we are certainly giving up too many mistakes,” added Phillips, ahead of the Steelers’ trip to Coventry Blaze on Sunday night, their hosts no doubt buoyed by a fantastic 5-4 win on the road at form team Cardiff Devils.”
“The quality is in that locker room, 100 per cent - it’s just about getting that bit of confidence back and taking it from there.”