Sheffield Steeldogs urged to overcome one final Spring Cup challenge as Swindon Wildcats aim to dent perfect record

GREG WOOD is looking for his Sheffield Steeldogs team to overcome one final challenge in order to be able to look back fondly on what has been a remarkable Spring Cup campaign.

Sheffield Steeldogs desperately defend their goal against Swindon Wildcats when the two teams previously met at Ice Sheffield back in February, the hosts winning 4-2. Picture courtesy of Andy Bourke/Podium Prints.

The Steeldogs wrapped up the title with two games to spare last weekend when maintaining their 100 per cent record in the behind-closed-doors NIHL National competition, going on to extend their winning run to 11 games against second-placed Telford Tigers on Wednesday.

Tomorrow night sees them play host to Swindon Wildcats, already vanquished twice by the Steeldogs and who would love nothing more than to ruin the South Yorkshire club’s hopes of staying ‘perfect’ throughout the competition.

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Several times over the past few weeks, the Steeldogs have found themselves challenged and threatened but, on each occasion, have found a way to overcome it.

ONE FINAL PUSH: Sheffield Steeldogs head coach, Greg Wood. Picture courtesy of Peter Best.

Now Wood wants them to pass one last test of the campaign.

“With any good team you want a reaction and last Saturday, when we were trailing at the end of a period for the first time in this competition, we had an instant reaction at the start of the second period,” said Wood.

“And that has been the case any time we have been challenged, we’ve stepped up to the mark and come back fighting and got through it.

“Obviously you’d like to play your best, free-flowing hockey for 60 minutes every week.

Jonathan Phillips says Sheffield Steeldogs are determined to keep their 100 per cent Spring Cup record intact on Sunday against Swindon Wildcats. Picture courtesy of Andy Bourke/Podium Prints.

“And we have had that at times, periods in games where we’ve played really well and dominated.

“You’ve got to look at the bigger picture, though – we’ve only been together six weeks or so and that isn’t an awful lot of time to knit together a team that’s working and productive on all bases – but I still feel we’ve done a pretty good job in a small amount of time.”

And while the silverware may be polished and ready to present at Ice Sheffield on Sunday night, the Steeldogs as a group want to be able to celebrate their success by bowing out of the competition with a 100 per cent record.

The previous two meetings against Swindon came on the very first weekend, meaning the Wildcats have been waiting a long time for their chance to exact revenge, something which would taste even sweeter on the road.

But Jonathan Phillips who on Monday will return to the same venue but having returned to the Sheffield Steelers fold for the Elite Series, says the hosts are determined not to let anything slip at this late stage.

“Over the weeks, we’ve spoken about how – with how long everybody has had off – it makes you realise the reason that we play the game is because of how much we love it,” said Phillips . “And every time we set foot on the ice you do it to the best of your ability and whether we’ve won the cup already or not, there’s always something to play for and we want to finish unbeaten.

“We know it is going to be a tough game. I think we caught Swindon early in the series, on that first weekend. I don’t think they had skated much and we were lucky in that respect – we are expecting a very tough game.”

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