How Sheffield Steeldogs aim to stay ‘perfect’ after confirming Spring Cup dominance with title triumph

GREG WOOD may have been able to tick off one mission as ‘accomplished’ after seeing his unbeaten Sheffield Steeldogs team clinch the Spring Cup - now he wants them to stay ‘perfect’ for the entire competition.

ON TARGET: Liam Krk scored three goals across both games for Sheffield. Picture courtesy of Andy Bourke/Podium Prints.

With two games left, the Steeldogs cannot be caught, their cause helped considerably before they even set foot on the ice at the weekend when second-placed Telford Tigers lost out 4-1 to Swindon Wildcats on Friday.

It meant a fifth straight four-point weekend for the Steeldogs would ensure them the silverware, something they duly achieved when following up Saturday’s 4-1 win at Bees IHC with a 6-3 win on home ice 24 hours later over Raiders IHC.

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“It’s very satisfying to have won the competition,” said head coach Wood. “That was the aim at the start of this process and we’ve achieved that.

Sheffield Steeldogs head coach, Greg Wood. Picture courtesy of Peter Best

“We’ve still got a perfect record and we’ve got two games left to finish it off. We’ve got to keep going and finish as strongly as we can.”

On how his team have been able to be so impressive during the competition, Wood added: “We had the foundations of a core group of players who had played the way Morgs (previous coach Ben Morgan) and me wanted them to play over the last 2-3 seasons.

“We’ve added some really good professionals to that over the last few months and they’ve all bought into what we’re trying to do and the team spirit has been really good, which always makes things a lot easier.

“Everybody bought into the plans that we’ve put forward and it then goes on to executing it all on the ice, which we’ve done really well.

PILEDRIVER: Ben O'Connor ripped one through traffic to make it 5-1 to Sheffield against Raiders in the second period. Picture courtesy of Andy Bourke/Podium Prints.

“It’s been pleasing to see that the stuff we have worked on in practice come off in games and the results have followed that.”

Again, the Steeldogs were deserved winners, although Wood was disappointed with a penalty-laden third period, something he put down to poor officiating and which came in the wake of a fight between defenceman Ben Morgan and Raiders’ Callum Wells towards the end of the second period.

“Morgs took a hit that nobody should really have to take and there was no call on it,” added Wood. “The referees missed it and it escalated after that.

“I thought the third period was horrendous by them, you can tell by the number of penalties, the goal they washed out - I don’t know why they washed it out. It just seemed they were nit-picking and it ended upspoiling the game.”

Liam Kirk opened the scoring for the hosts at 5.13, the lead doubled at 9.04 when Lewis Bell fired into the roof of the net.

But Raiders remained a threat, with Miles Finney having to be solid in the Steeldogs net to deny the visitors any way back into the game, one which became harder for them after a quickfire exchange of passes between Stanislav Lascek, Brady Doxey and James Spurr resulted in the latter firing home at 18.21 to make it 3-0.

Raiders continued to pose a threat on the break and got their rewards when Erik Patiak scored on the power play at 25.30, although they slipped three goals behind again just under four minutes later when Jonathan Phillips pounced as the hosts enjoyed a man advantage of their own.

Ben O’Connor then ripped one through traffic past an unsighted Bradley Windebank to make it 5-1in the 39th minute.

Raiders hit back in the third through with two goals, both from the impressive Patiak, but that was as close as they could get, Kirk adding his second of the night with an empty net strike.

On Saturday, the Steeldogs found themselves in uncharted territory when going in at the first period break trailing for the first time in the competition, Josh Smith having put the Bees ahead.

But a dominant second period saw Ben Lake (2) and Jonathan Phillips put the Steeldogs in control with Kirk rounding off the scoring in the 52nd minute.

The Steeldogs face a second trip to Telford on Wednesday night before rounding off their schedule with a visit from Swindon on Sunday.

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