Why maximum Elite League return is vital for Sheffield Steelers from weekend clashes with Coventry Blaze and Glasgow Clan

WHEN Sheffield Steelers go into any two-game weekend, securing a maximum return of four points is clearly always the main objective.

Coventry Blaze will be looking for a third win of the season in Sheffield on Saturday. Picture: Dean Woolley.

As is also quite obvious, some you win, some you lose, but this weekend, according to Steelers’ captain Jonathan Phillips, probably carries a touch more importance, largely given the proximity to them in the Elite League standings of the two teams they find themselves up against.

Before tomorrow’s first trip of the season to Glasgow Clan – coached by former Steelers’ favourite Zack Fitzgerald – Aaron Fox’s team play host to a fourth-placed Coventry Blaze team buoyed by having won on their previous two visits to the FlyDSA Arena this season.

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Granted, the Steelers have struck their own blow on the road in retaliation against Danny Stewart’s team, but a regulation win for the Blaze tonight would take them above their South Yorkshire rivals.

And with league leaders Clan already three points above second-placed Steelers, any further ground ceded to the Scottish club – even at this early stage – could prove telling.

“These are must-win games really,” said Phillips. “We’ve played more games than anybody else up there so far. These are two teams either side of us in the table and with us having played more games, we need to keep putting pressure on those teams.

“It is important to try and make this a four-point weekend for ourselves. Obviously that is something we always strive for, but maybe this weekend it matters more than others so far.”

Coventry hammered the Clan 9-2 last Sunday, before Fitzgerald’s team bounced back with a 6-3 win over Cardiff Devils.

Former Sheffield Steelers defenceman Zack Fitzgerald has taken Glasgow Clan to the top of the Elite League in his first season as head coach., Picture: Al Goold (www.algooldphoto.com)

As for his former team-mate’s impact at the Clan in his first-ever head coach role, Phillips says his early-season success has not come as a surprise, the 34-year-old American even overseeing a 4-3 triumph for his team on their visit to Sheffield back in September.

“The guy is definitely a leader,” said Phillips.

“It’s not a surprise to me at all that he was interested in the position and got appointed.

“And so far, you can see he has signed a great team. They are playing as a team and they seem to enjoy playing for him. I’m guessing that is what he has tried to do – to get people to enjoy playing for him.

Sheffield Steelers' captain, Jonathan Phillips. Picture: Dean Woolley.

“They are a team who that night at our place played the perfect road game.

“They were defensively disciplined and frustrated us a lot. Then, the next thing you know, you’re 4-0 down.”