THIS weekend could determine the destination of the Elite League championship trophy.
Sheffield Steelers need to win both Friday and Saturday games at Belfast Giants if they are to gain control of their destiny.
Today, an independent voice, Coventry Blaze coach Paul Thompson selects three individual contests that can shape the ultimate result.
John DeCaro v Stephen Murphy.
“Both are great goalies and are chiefly responsible for their teams being where they are right now.
DeCaro is a big goalie who plays his angles very well whilst Murphy is a quick netmidner who never gives up and fights to stop the puck.
The reality is this: who ever plays the best on Friday and Saturday will probably determine who wins the games and thus the league.
Jeff Mason v Rod Sarich.
Mason has had a great year, sometimes those second seasons are when you find your way and he has certainly done that. He has put up some great offensive numbers this year, he jumps into the play, creates and scores. He is also good in his own end, smart and makes the right play. Sarich is a huge key for the Steelers, their powerplay is a different and a better power play with Roddy on it. He is the most dominant powerplay D man in the league. He stays calm in all situations, he can set up Jeff Legue or any Steelers forwards. When he is on the ice you back off, you struggle making decisions because you know he will always have options.
Rob Dowd v Jeff Legue.
Two forwards that every team in the league would love to have.
Dowd is becoming the best player in the league, British or import, he has raised the bar again this season. He can make something happen out of nothing. He comes to play every night, especially in the big games. He loves the big games. I saw that at the World Championships last year and just thought ‘wow’ this kid is the real deal. Can Sheffield contain him? I don’t know.
Like Dowd, Legue plays the big games well, he enjoys the big moments and a major stage. They both enjoy being the go-to guys. Legue has special speed that can destroy you, he backs ‘D’ men off, they are frightened of him and that turn of speed. Legue will need his wing men Mike Ramsay and Colt King to be ready for the fight. Legue can be the difference, his partnership with Sarich on the powerplay could also be the key.
If I was Belfast I’d stay out of the box, staying 5 on 5. Belfast are slightly deeper but if they get emotionally-involved and take penalties then Steelers big guns can get to you on the powerplay.
Sheffield have a room full of winners. They aren’t the best side in the league but have men who have won before. They have battled all season, but many in the sport can’t understand how they are still in the race. That they are has to tell you they have something special: grit and determination. Ryan Finnerty has dragged that side towards the end of the season and they still have a chance of a championship. He deserves a medal but will it be a championship one? - I just don’t know!”