It’s an historic occasion for Kalcrest Sheffield Steeldogs next week ... and they aim to make the most of it.
They face Guildford Flames in their first ever English Premier League Cup Final, the first leg of which is at iceSheffield next Tuesday (7.45pm), with the second leg at Guildford on the following Wednesday (March 28, 8pm).
Player-coach Andre Payette sets the scene with a question and answer session.
Q: What does it mean to Steeldogs to be in their first final?
A: It’s a great feeling to have made it to the Cup Final, especially when we started the season as the League’s underdogs. It is a massive achievement which has surprised everyone but the players have worked hard all year to be where they are now. It’s something they can be very proud of.
Q: What’s the general feeling in the camp?
The guys are really excited and some of our Sheffield players have played in the city for the last five years without ever reaching a final. There’s a great feeling of camaraderie in the camp and we’re raring to go.
Q: Is this one of the highlights of your career?
This whole season has been the highlight of my career. Seeing such a great bunch of Sheffield guys coming together, achieving so much as a team and being a part of it has been awesome for me.
Q: What about the opposition?
Guildford are the best team in the league this season and they would probably beat any of the bottom four of the Elite League.
They have so much talent and their team comprises a bit of everything to give them depth. We will have to do everything right and get a little bit of luck to win the Cup but we’ll certainly be trying our best.
Q: Who could be a match winner for Steeldogs?
I’m expecting Ben Bowns to be the real difference in the Final, as he has been awesome in the last two months. As a team, we plan to make it as uncomfortable as possible for Guildford by playing old time hockey next Tuesday night.
Q: I’m sure increased support would make a huge difference to the team?
Very much so and I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to all Sheffield ice hockey fans to come down next Tuesday night and get behind these Sheffield lads. We’re trying to do something very special in our first ever Final and we really need as many people down at iceSheffield as possible as it does make a big difference to the team. The support for the Steeldogs has been growing this year and it has been greatly appreciated by us all.
Q: Has the season so far exceeded all expectations?
It has been an exceptional season so far and one of the greatest for all involved. We are now playing in the money time of the season and to win the Cup would make the year spectacular. Our winning record at home has been incredible since December and we need to keep this momentum going.
We’re third in the League at present, whereas this time last year we had only just climbed off the bottom rungs. This year our team also boasts the League’s top goals and points scorer, Janis Ozolins, the top netminder Ben Bowns and top British defenceman in Ben Morgan. Greg Wood, Pavel Gomeniuk, Lloyd Gibson and Andre Payette also feature in the Top 10 charts.
The match has been lit ... it’s time to dowse the Flames.
l Tickets are available on the night at the Steeldogs Ticket desk in iceSheffield’s reception area from 6.15pm and are priced at: Adult £9, Concession £6.50, Child £3.50 (Under-8 free), Family £20.
More news can be found on www.sheffieldsteeldogs.co.uk