Sheffield Steelers’ unusual way to gain an Arena advantage

If there is an advantage of having slushy ice at Sheffiedld Arena, it’s that the Steelers’ home team should be more used to it than the opposition.

That’s the positive spin from defenceman Davey Phillips on playing on what is, at times, a partially-melted pad.

The blue liner says the surface remains a problem during training, but at least that means they are better prepared than teams like Cardiff Devils, who play there on Sunday. Phillips says the Arena ice has slightly improved after a dodgy start to the season but added: “It is not as good as what we’d like. We practice on it every day so we are used to it. For guys like me whose stick-handling abilities are not the best it makes it a little bit difficult.

“To be honest it should be harder for other team coming in.

“We have got to use it to our advantage, to be fair. Come the end of the periods, it’s really slushy, the start of the period it’s still a bit wet as well, so the puck is sticking to it. In the last five minutes it is sort of bouncing over sticks.

“You have just got to know that and be more direct with the plays.”

Sheffield Steelers defenceman Davey Phillips.

Sheffield Steelers defenceman Davey Phillips.

Phillips enjoyed his first experience of a Sheffield v Nottingham Panthers game last Sunday and knows the away leg of the Challenge Cup group game at the National Ice Centre on Saturday will be equally competitive as the 7-5 home victory.

“They will want to get some revenge, I am sure, having put a few goals past them” said Phillips. “It will be difficult in their building, they will have their fans behind them. Hopefully, we will have a travelling support behind us. We know they (Panthers) are going to come out hot and we’ll be ready for them.

“Every player wants to play in these big rivalry games. It’s a big crowd, you feel the atmosphere. I love the intensity, that’s what everyone plays for, these games.”

Phillips knows the following night’s encounter with Devils will be no picnic, either. “They are always a well-coached team, well structured and hard-working” he said.

Steelers top the Group table and winning the Challenge Cup is on the club’s agenda.

“Every trophy that is up for grabs we want to win, that’s no lie” he said. “The league is the main priority but the Challenge Cup is another championship and another piece of silverware we want to win - we are going for everything.”

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