Sheffield Steeldogs look to leapfrog rivals Hull Pirates as Leeds Chiefs target downing of leaders

BEN MORGAN believes the opportunity to leapfrog fierce Yorkshire rivals Hull Pirates in the NIHL National standings gives his Sheffield Steeldogs added incentive for this weekend’s double-header between the two.

Sheffield Steeldogs and Hull Pirates face each other at Ice Sheffield on Saturday (7.30pm) for a second time this season. Picture courtesy of Cerys Molloy.

Sixth-placed Steeldogs host fifth-placed Pirates at Ice Sheffield tonight (face-off 7.30pm) before heading east less than 24 hours later for their second visit of the season to Hull Ice Arena.

In the two previous meetings between the rivals, home ice has proved futile with the visiting team prevailing on each occasion.

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Since the Pirates came into existence back in the summer of 2015 and were admitted into the now-defunct English Premier League, a fierce rivalry has developed between the two clubs.

Sheffield Steeldogs' player-coach Ben Morgan. Picture courtesy of Cerys Molloy.

Both denied each other the North One regular season league title on the final weekend of the season and the two previous games this season have produced a remarkable tally of 27 goals.

But it is this weekend that Morgan is concentrating on and, hopefully, climbing the table.

“The rivalry hasn’t declined since the NIHL National league started and it’s actually been a while since we played them, so it is about time we got to know each other again,” said Morgan, whose team trail Hull by three points.

“Not that we should need one, but there is an added incentive knowing we could go above them – but then we are always looking at the team above us and chasing them down as best we can, rather than looking at what is behind us.”

OPTIMISTIC: Leeds Chiefs' player-coach Sam Zajac. Picture: Steve Brodie.

Elsewhere, Leeds Chiefs will look to close the gap on the top eight play-off places when they host leaders Telford Tigers at Blackburn tonight (5.30pm).

Sam Zajac’s team are currently 10 points off eighth-placed Milton Keynes although, with 28 regular season games remaining, there is still plenty of time to close the gap and make the post-season in their first-ever campaign.

Three previous encounters with Telford – all in Shropshire – have ended in defeat. Tomorrow sees the Chiefs hit the road south for a second visit of the season to Bracknell Bees.

The previous meeting between the two back in September saw the Chiefs edged out by a narrow 4-3 scoreline. by a Bees team who sit 10 points above them in the standings in the eighth and final playoff spot, providing added significance to the encounter.

Player-coach Zajac said: "“They (Telford) are the form team and while it will be a big ask for us, I maintain that we’ve got the players that can cause a lot of teams problems, including Telford.

“With our aspirations of making the play-offs we need to get the two points in Bracknell, preferably in regulation."