Sheffield Steeldogs coach Greg Wood relishing pivotal Spring Cup battle with Telford Tigers

GREG WOOD admits he is “buzzing” at the prospect of so much talent on display this weekend as Spring Cup title rivals Sheffield Steeldogs and Telford Tigers go head-to-head.

Sheffield Steeldogs' head coach Greg Wood, on the bench during last Saturday's 7-0 win over Bees at Ice Sheffield. Picture courtesy of Andy Bourke/Podium Prints.

Both teams are yet to be beaten in the NIHL National behind-closed-doors tournament but, one way or another, something will have to give across the two days.

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Telford Tigers v Sheffield Steeldogs - Kieran Brown settles back on ice quickly ...

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It may well be that both teams emerge with a win apiece from the double-header, but they are so far ahead of their three other rivals that, if the title is not decided this weekend, then the third encounter between the two on Wendesday, March 24 in Shropshire will presumably take care of that.

Kieran Brown impressed with Sheffield Steeldogs last season, but will line up against them for Telford Tigers this weekend. Picture courtesy of Steeldogs Media.

For now, though, Steeldogs’ head coach Wood is excited about the prospect of locking horns with opposite number Tom Watkins, who led the Tigers to the NIHL National league title last season.

Both teams have made equally good use of players normally found plying their trade at Elite League level, suggesting there should be a very evenly-matched 120 minutes of hockey to come.

The Steeldogs extended their winning streak to six games with two convincing wins over Bees last weekend, while Telford twice dismantled Swindon Wildcats, their 9-2 win in Wiltshire particularly eye-opening

“It’s about holding nerves and playing with a good intensity and I’m sure that both teams will be more than up for it, said Wood. “

Cole Shudra was initially signed with the Steeldogs on a two-way deal from Sheffield Steelers last summer, but this weekend he lines up for Telford, before heading off to join Coventry Blaze for next month's Elite Series. picture: Dean Woolley.

“I’m really looking forward to it, I’ve not really had this kind of buzz about a game for a while now – half of that is because it is your team playing and you want to win as a competitor but, also, I’m aware of what kind of talent is on show.

“When you look down the two rosters, there are 13-14 players that got drafted earlier this week for the Elite Series, which is pretty impressive as a statistic.

“There is going to be an abundance of talent on show which is a positive for everyone.”

To watch Saturday’s live stream of Telford v Sheffield go HERE

To watch Sunday’s live stream of Sheffield v Telford go HERE

As it stands, the Steeldogs go into the weekend with the best goalscoring of all five teams, having plundered 40 in six outings, while Telford boast the tightest defence, conceding just 10 so far.

“They’ve got really good depth, right down to their third or fourth line they’ve got guys who know what they are doing and can hurt you,” added Wood. “Their depth is their main strength and Tommy is a very good coach who will have them well organised, they were champions of the league last year for a reason.

“They had the best defensive record last season and, again, they’ve got the best defensive record here, but we have the best +/- so we’re obviously finding the twince a bit more.

“But if they have a good night and limit your chances, they’ve got enough firepower with the forwards they do have - they’ve got some very individually-skilled guys that can hurt you.

“We need to make sure we take care of business in our end and, in all honesty, I think the games will probably go down to whoever makes the least mistakes. At this level, with these players, if you give up a glaring scoring opportunity there is a high chance the other team will score.”

A number of former Steeldogs players will be in the Tigers line-up, including forward Kieran Brown, who scored 34 points including 10 goals for them last season, and Cole Shudra, who is being utilised by Watkins in defence.

Both will line up in the Elite Series next month, Brown with Nottingham Panthers and Shudra with Coventry Blaze.

“I’ve bloodied Cole through our line-up on and off for the past six years or so,” siad Wood. “He’s a strong, solid two-way guy – he can play at the back, or up front. He’s just a talented hockey player, obviously had a good pedigree and he’s just a good lad as well.

“Kieran is just a super-talented lad, I was glad to see him get drafted by Nottingham for the Elite Series, Cole at Coventry, too – it’s an opportunity for him to get himself on the marker and cement an Elite spot on a regular basis because he’s got that skill level.”

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