Phil Hill might have been back at Sheffield Steelers for just one week, but he already knows the importance of getting improved results against champions Nottingham Panthers.
Sheffield have lost twice to their rivals already and cannot afford more slip-ups, says Hill, who returned to the Arena after six years at Cardiff Devils. Hill said: “Games against Nottingham and Belfast Giants are the ones you want to win, especially at home. It normally comes down to that little series against the top guys. Nottingham are a good team; it could be the key to the season beating them. You have got to take care of the others in the Conference. But those games against the top teams are going to make or break the season.”
Hill said he’d been “blown away” by the level of professionalism at Steelers adding: “The way it’s run is geared towards a championship organisation.”
Asked about the difference between his now and his last time in Sheffield he said: “Back then they were on beginning of the path to get to championship winning team, Dave Whistle signed me then Dave Matsos came in. We got to final of Challenge Cup but had a few injuries and never quite going and I left.”
Referring to the current Steelers team he said: “There is depth and quality right through the line-up. Stefan Meyer, for instance: I’ve never seen a guy control a puck like that down low.
“The D corps is active and always in the play, that’s one of the things I picked up playing against them, you cannot switch off, they are so fast back there and join in every play they can. It’s tough to defend against.!
Of goalie Frank Doyle, who signed for his old club before moving to Sheffield, he said: “He was going to be the marquis signing for Cardiff, his resume speaks for itself, you can see in the big games he is going to be the guy that stands up.” Of this weekend’s opponents, he said “Fife are dangerous. Coventry are hurting on the back end, have to try and punish that.”
n Steelers’ asst coach Marc Lefebvre agrees that the title could be decided by results against Panthers and Giants. Speaking on video at thestar.co.uk, he said: “Every time we play those guys it is going to be a dog fight. Nottingham are a very good team with high-end offence, while Belfast are just as good if not better.”
Lefebvre believes Steelers are a match for Nottingham this year. “They won all the trophies last year but that is what we are fighting for here. I think we stack up against them and we’ll see that in November when we play them back-to-back.”