Sheffield Steelers looking to replace rivals Guildford Flames at Elite League summit
An opening night loss at home to Cardiff Devils was not the ideal start for Aaron Fox’s team but, since then, they have been picture perfect in the league, their fourth straight win coming at fellow high-fliers Coventry Blaze on Sunday.
It leaves them third in the standings but with a chance of going top if they beat current leaders Guildford Flames at Sheffield Arena tonight.
It was against Guildford that the Steelers bounced back from that Cardiff loss, winning 4-1 the following night at The Spectrum. Since then, Paul Dixon’s team have gone on a four-game winning streak in the league themselves.
“You never want to lose the first game, especially at home and with it being a big game against Cardiff as well,” said Phillips.
"I felt we actually played really well that game, we weren’t clinical enough but we probably played better on that Saturday than we did the following night when we went down to Guildford and won 4-1.
“With such a big turnover of guys this summer, new systems for the new guys, everybody has now started to bed in and use the systems without thinking now – it’s almost become second nature to them all.
"There have been a lot of big learning points since that first weekend and each week we’ve improved and got better.”
While a win would take the Steelers’ top, Phillips has been around long enough to realise that nothing is won at this stage of the season, although any slip-ups this early on can prove costly in the long run.
“We could go top but as we’ve seen however long this league has been going – 20 years now – it has shown that these kind of games in September or October, you can’t lose, because they come back to bite you when you are scrapping away for points at the end,” added Phillips. “Overall, though, it’s been a good start from us.”
Phillips believes every EIHL team has upgraded again this season, one such example being Coventry, who the Steelers inflicted a first league defeat of the season on last weekend, knocking them off top-spot in the process.
Guildford were the team to benefit, moving top on the back of two 5-3 wins over Fife Flyers. Their current lofty position comes as no surprise to Phillips, who has long admired the job done by head coach Paul Dixon at the Flames.
“Guildford have been a good team for a few years now and they are just so dangerous to play against,” added Phillips.
"Digger (Paul Dixon) always puts together highly-skilled, fast, quick transitional teams and whenever you make a mistake they just jump all over you and can score in bunches.
"We’ve been hurt by that in the past and they are going to want a bit of retribution from the last game when won down there.”