Sheffield Steelers ready for battle-royale at Nottingham Panthers

Unfriendly association: the Sheffield v Nottingham issue summed up in one picture.

Unfriendly association: the Sheffield v Nottingham issue summed up in one picture.

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Sheffield Steelers recognise a key advantage Nottingham have at this stage of the season - but are pretty sure they can do something to prevent the Panthers bandwagon rolling on towards further silverware this season.

Nottingham won the first title of the season, the Challenge Cup, at Sheffield Arena on Sunday, using their depth to eventually master Cardiff Devils.

“To have four lines firing away at this time of the season is an important asset” says Sheffield coach Paul Thompson.

“They showed that depth on Sunday when they used it against a Cardiff side that tired and, like us, has been playing a lot of hockey.

“But we will have Guillaume Desbiens back on Saturday (at Nottingham) and be in a position to have four blocks of wingers and three centremen.

On top of that Colton Fretter has made some progress in his rehabilitation (groin) and we will see how he goes. He badly wants to come back.”

While the League title could end up just about anywhere in the top five, Thompson says his own men have only themselves to worry about.

“It is up to us. If Cardiff win out and we win out, Cardiff will come top because of regulation time wins - but they play Belfast Giants three times: will they really win all three of those?

“Games at Nottingham are always great affairs, a full house, plenty of passion. We have won in that building, and there has been some good games. But we have got to want it more on Saturday. This is going to be about what we do, not about anybody else.”

On Sunday, Steelers host Coventry Blaze, who have presented something of a stumbling block to Sheffield this season.

“They are fighting for eighth place while we are battling for the ultimate prize - we have just got to show up and be men” said Thompson.

“Our focus this week is to practice and prepare for those two matches.

“At times we’ve been hanging in there (near the top of the league) and now we intend to enjoy the run-in. If they’d had said back in August that with four games left we would be two points clear at the top of the table we’d have taken it!”

Great Britain’s squad for April’s World Championship in Zagreb includes a slot for Luke Ferrara, who has had a fine first-full Steelers season. GB regulars Robert Dowd, Ben O’Connor and Jonathan Phillips also made it.

The squad will be cut to 28 for the pre-World Championship training camp which will get under way on 6th April 2016 and will include two games against Poland, taking place at the National Ice Centre in Nottingham and Coventry’s Skydome.

A final 23-man squad for the World Championship will be named after the two games against Poland.

GB will face hosts Croatia in the Division 1B tournament from 17th to 23rd April, as well as Estonia, Lithuania, Romania and Ukraine.

THE 37-MAN SQUAD

Josh Batch - Cardiff Devils

Ben Bowns (N/M) - Cardiff Devils

Jonathan Boxill - Belfast Giants

David Clarke - Nottingham Panthers

Russell Cowley - Coventry Blaze

Jordan Cownie - Milton Keynes Lightning

Ben Davies - Braehead Clan

Matty Davies - Manchester Storm

Robert Dowd - Sheffield Steelers

Robert Farmer - Nottingham Panthers

Luke Ferrara - Sheffield Steelers

Mark Garside - Belfast Giants

James Griffin - Milton Keynes Lightning

Matt Haywood - Braehead Clan

Lewis Hook - Milton Keynes Lightning

Robert Lachowicz - Nottingham Panthers

Steve Lee - Nottingham Panthers

Joey Lewis - Heilbronner Falken

Stevie Lyle (N/M) - Swindon Wildcats

Craig Moore - Dundee Stars

Evan Mosey - Nottingham Panthers

Thomas Murdy (N/M) - Telford Tigers

Stephen Murphy (N/M) - Belfast Giants

Matthew Myers - Nottingham Panthers

Sam Oakford - Nottingham Panthers

Ben O’Connor - Sheffield Steelers

Craig Peacock - Belfast Giants

David Phillips - Manchester Storm

Jonathan Phillips - Sheffield Steelers

Mark Richardson - Cardiff Devils

Colin Shields - Belfast Giants

Zach Sullivan - Braehead Clan

Paul Swindlehurst - Manchester Storm

Ashley Tait - Coventry Blaze

Ross Venus - Coventry Blaze

Jonathan Weaver - Telford Tigers

Mike Will (N/M) - Cardiff Devils

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