Wood’s Sheffield Steeldogs team host Leeds Knights in the final game of the competition’s group stages at ice Sheffield, with both teams vying to finish top of the standings. Both have already qualified for the semi-final stages, along with Telford Tigers and Swindon Wildcats.
The derby brings together the two form teams of the competition, with Leeds only losing their 100 per cent record last Sunday when 5-4 defeat at home to Peterborough Phantoms ended a run of six straight wins.
It was Peterborough who inflicted a second defeat of the campaign on the Steeldogs the previous evening, although with Wood’s team going down 4-3 in overtime it means they trail Leeds by just the one point ahead of Friday’s game.
In recent years the sporting rivalry between the two Yorkshire cities has increased, mainly through football and boxing, but head coach Wood wants hockey to match that intensity, especially with the teams set to meet regularly over the coming months.
“The Leeds-Sheffield sporting rivalry is something that is deeply embedded,” said Wood. “You only have to look at the football teams, even the boxing - and I hope the hockey goes the same way.
“We really want to put it on them this Friday and I’m sure it’s the same for them. It’s going to be a good series throughout the season and, hopefully, the fans get behind it too.
“The biggest winner will be the sport in general, though, because this is going to be a high-quality affair for the second tier.”
Forward Nathan Salem is expected to be back in the Steeldogs’ line-up having missed last Sunday’s 8-1 win over Milton Keynes Lightning, while Wood hopes to give a first outing of the season to Alex Graham, back on a two-way deal through parent club Sheffield Steelers.
“The guys are looking forward to it and already this week there’s been a lot of talk about the game,” added Wood.
“You know you’re in for a tough battle, and there is a lot of pride at stake. A lot of players know each other between the two teams and there is a lot of rivalry there already.”