Video '˜Ugly' works for Paul Thompson to keep Sheffield Steelers in the mix for silverware

PAUL THOMPSON doesn't care his Sheffield Steelers side won 'ugly' in order to keep their bid for silverware alive.

FULL-BLOODED: Paul Thompson gets his message across to his players at the NIC on Saturday evening. Picture: Dean Woolley.

The Steelers will meet season-long nemesis Cardiff Devils in Sunday’s Elite League play-off final at Nottingham’s National Ice Centre after defeating Belfast Giants 2-0 in Saturday’s semi-final.

Cardiff battled through a tough examination of their own earlier in the day when they came from two goals down to beat Dundee Stars 4-2.

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The 2016-17 campaign has seen the Devils dominate, winning the regular season league championship and the Erhardt Conference title, as well as beating the Steelers in the Challenge Cup Final.

But Thompson’s team are intent on enjoying some success of their own before the season’s end and, in doing so, prevent Cardiff from celebrating a grand slam.

“Cardiff have been the best team this season, they really have,” said Thompson. “But if we want to win this last trophy of the season we’ve got 60 or more minutes to prove ourselves.

“We’ve already lost in a final to them, we finished third in the league but we want to come away with the play-off trophy.

“The fact they beat us in the Challenge Cup Final and won the league makes us hungry, of course, but they’ve got my full respect because they are a great club.

FULL-BLOODED: Paul Thompson gets his message across to his players at the NIC on Saturday evening. Picture: Dean Woolley.

“They played a game against a real plucky Dundee team, but good teams find a way to win and Cardiff did that.”

Thompson acknowledged his team had to dig deep to reach the final, producing a steely defensive performance against a Belfast side who, despite their dominance, could not find a way through, Ervins Mustukovs turned away 31 shots with several players taking hefty, clearly painful blows when getting their bodies in front of shots.

“I’m not apologising for winning ugly. I don’t care,” said Thompson.

“And it was ugly. We didn’t manage the puck so well today and we bent and we bent but we didn’t break and they didn’t get inside us for two periods, they did in the third period but our goaltending was excellent today.

NO WAY THROUGH: Ervins Mustukovs poke checks the puck away from Belfast's Matt Towe in the second period on Saturday. Picture courtesy of Scott Wiggins/EIHL

“There was some huge blocking of shots going on out there and we had a huge penalty kill towards the end of the game. It was a full-blooded, committed ugly win.”

With his team outshot 31-18 and spending the majority of the game in their zone, it prompted regular cries of “boring” from certain sections of the crowd, led by Nottingham Panthers’ fans whose team failed to make the weekend after the Steelers memorable quarter-final win over their team the previous weekend.

But Thompson didn’t care how his side got through.

“We love it because the minute we stop getting booed is when it means we’re not any good anymore,” he said. “The best teams always get booed - Manchester United always get booed and we revel in that kind of thing.”

FULL-BLOODED: Paul Thompson gets his message across to his players at the NIC on Saturday evening. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Thompson hopes the ice conditions are better for Sunday’s final, with the temperature in a packed arena making life difficult for both teams in the second game of the day.

“It was tough because it was very ,very warm in there and the ice was really bad,” he said. “Pucks were jumping everywhere and both sides had to often sit the puck down before they could make a play so it wasn’t easy. We had to battle really hard.”

NO WAY THROUGH: Ervins Mustukovs poke checks the puck away from Belfast's Matt Towe in the second period on Saturday. Picture courtesy of Scott Wiggins/EIHL