If Sheffield Steelers lose back-to-back games at Belfast Giants this weekend, the challenge to win a third-straight Elite League championship will suddenly become even more daunting.
That worst-case scenario would see the second-place Irish 10 points ahead of Sheffield. Even with two games in hand on them, it would take a leap of faith to expect Steelers to close the gap on them and league leaders Cardiff Devils, who are currently four points ahead of Giants.
But an insight into the Steelers’ mindset provides a positive message for the fans.
Coach Paul Thompson, asked if Steelers cannot afford to lose both games at the SSE Arena, replied: “We don’t intend to lose at all.
“We have just had six games in 12 nights, we’ve been pretty banged up and ill but we have to regroup and go there and win. We have played them three times and we need to show the character we undoubtedly have.”
Thompson, reflecting on the task ahead in 2017 says he has “no doubt we have the players to catch the leaders (Belfast and Cardiff Devils.)
“If our team is in form and fit we can do that. When we are healthy and playing with confidence we can be unbeatable at this level.
“Sometimes you can grow from adversity, we have had our wobble and now we can go on.”
Thompson recently cut winger Jesse Schultz from the line up - the winger’s availability drew fleeting attention from Braehead Clan - and he has been reviewing the CVs of several replacements. “I do need to add another quality guy” said the coach. “I’ve looked at seven or eight players but they weren’t good enough to play in our top six. That’s not going to help us, we need somebody who will improve us. I am not just going to bring in any old guy.”
Steelers lost 3-2 in Belfast last month but have beaten then twice, 5-1.
*Andreas Valdix is expected to return on Saturday to centre the line with Rob Dowd and Levi Nelson.