VIDEO: Steelers eager to face Panthers in pivotal game

SHEFFIELD Steelers’ head coach Ryan Finnerty believes his team’s workmanlike approach could be the right ingredient to help deliver another Elite League title.

Last month, it looked as if the South Yorkshire club’s championship hopes were as good as gone as they trailed leaders Nottingham Panthers by nine points.

But a run of seven straight wins, coupled with a slight stutter from the Panthers, means there is all to play for on what will be a pivotal weekend for the Steelers.

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Tonight’s trip to the National Ice Centre is the first of three away games in as many nights for Finnerty’s third-placed team, who head to Belfast Giants tomorrow before finishing off with a trip to Dundee Stars 24 hours later.

Belfast leapfrogged Steelers with last night’s 2-0 win over Dundee.

But it is tonight’s encounter in the East Midlands on which everyone will be focused as the Steelers look to close the three-point gap on the Panthers, who also have a game in hand.

“It’s a big, big weekend for us and the Nottingham game is probably something that’s been circled on the calendar for me and the guys for quite a while. Now it’s finally here,” said Finnerty.

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“It’s going to be tough all weekend, but it’s one that we’re ready for. The guys are excited and it’s a great time of year to be playing this kind of hockey.”

The Steelers have lost only once in the last 13 games, that coming at home to Nottingham on January 20.

Finnerty believes the key to his side’s recent good form is a willingness on the part of his players to buy into the defence-minded ethos he has demanded all over the ice, something which has seen them concede only one goal in the last three games and which saw netminder John DeCaro post shutouts against Fife Flyers and Hull Stingrays last weekend.

“Our defensive game has got a lot better in recent weeks,” added Finnerty. “We had a good weekend last time out and the thing I like is that we are a defensive-minded team. We’re not a team that takes a ton of chances offensively. We pride ourselves on not getting caught out and giving up odd-man rushes and we try to frustrate the other teams’ offence.

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“We made a little bit of an adjustment with our lines about three weeks ago and they are starting to settle in as well now, which is helping.

“It’s the right time of year for things to be clicking. We’re going to show up in Nottingham with our workmanlike mentality which is what has enabled us to get back into the title race and make these games this weekend meaningful.

“No disrespect to anyone else, but this is the biggest game of the year. It’s going to be a full house down there and I know it’s a huge game for Nottingham too.”