head coach Paul Thompson wants his Sheffield Steelers’ players to repeat their efforts in last weekend’s memorable win over Nottingham Panthers so they can enter the summer as “heroes.”
On a rollercoaster weekend, the Steelers overturned a 5-2 deficit from the first leg of their Elite League play-off quarter-final against Nottingham when they won the return leg 5-1 in overtime on home ice.
It has set up an intriguing semi-final at the Final Four Weekend at Nottingham’s National Ice Centre today against Belfast Giants.
The Giants pipped the Steelers to the regular season runners-up spot, but in the eight-game head-to-head series between the two, there was nothing to split them, both teams winning four games apiece, including twice in each other’s building.
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At stake today is a place in Sunday’s final against the Dundee Stars or the Cardiff Devils, the Wales club gunning for a grand slam having already won the league championship, Challenge Cup and the Erhardt Conference.
“In sport it is never easy,” said Thompson. “To some people you are the devil incarnate one day, the next you’re a hero.
“So when you do get the good times like we had last Sunday, you have to make sure you enjoy them.
“I want the players to be excited about getting to this weekend and to knock the Panthers out to get there in the way we did is a great achievement. But we want to take this further.
“I think Cardiff, ourselves and Belfast have been the three best teams in the league over the year – the league table never lies.
I know that last year we had a great season in winning the league, but we fell short in not getting to Nottingham. There were thousands of our fans there last year and everybody loved the fact that we as a team weren’t playing and were ridiculing our fans because of that.Paul Thompson
“We’ve had some great wins against Belfast and they’ve had some against us too and, in a way, we kind of hurt each other’s title chances at crucial times.
“But I like their team a lot, they have a great skill set, play with great speed and have a good attitude, with solid defence and goaltending – it should be a cracking game.”
Thompson says he is particularly keen to repay the faith of Steelers fans in Nottingham this weekend – 12 months on from when they were ridiculed in the same building.
Despite winning the regular season title for a record fifth time last year, the season ended on a sour note for the Steelers when they exited the play-offs at the first hurdle at the hands of Thompson’s former club, Coventry Blaze.
That meant they did not qualify for the finals weekend at the National Ice Centre in Nottingham, much to the amusement of rival fans.
“I know that last year we had a great season in winning the league, but we fell short in not getting to Nottingham,” added Thompson.
“There were thousands of our fans there last year and everybody loved the fact that we as a team weren’t playing and were ridiculing our fans because of that.
“That annoyed me, so when I woke up on Monday I was happy because I knew all of our fans who spend a lot of money following us all over the place will be able to see us playing this weekend.
“It’s up to us now to make sure we give them plenty to cheer about.”