By Richard Wright
The Sheffield Steelers and their fans had a very special Valentine’s Day as they progressed to the final of the Challenge Cup, beating defending champions Nottingham Panthers.
League form for both clubs has been good, with just one loss in five games each. The chance of claiming silverware and the similar league form will allow for a close competition on Sunday, however for the Steelers, perhaps it goes even deeper than that.
This progression in the cup should give them the confidence boost they need to move up the league table, and out of the third place rut they seem to be struggling to evade.
With 5-2 and 4-2 wins over the Edinburgh Capitals and the Panthers, they seemed to be back on track, but after losing 6-3 away at the Fife Flyers the build-up took a bad turn.
In the run-up to what has been described as “a massive week” by Steelers head coach, Paul Thompson, the cup final confidence will need to feature if the Steelers want to get back on form quickly.
The run up to the final hasn’t been all smooth running for Sheffield off the rink either, as the two clubs have already been clashing over fixture times. The Steelers face Coventry Blaze in the league on Saturday, only 24 hours before the cup final and made the request to rearrange the League fixture, but this was declined by the EIHL rules.
“It is advantage to Cardiff because they pulled that move on us that we could not move the game,” Thompson said to the BBC.
“It is not fair. It is a cup final, both teams should have the same opportunity so we are a little bit rattled about that, but I hope that comes back and haunts Cardiff.”
However, Cardiff Devils managing director Todd Kelman has shown no sympathy for the Steelers, saying to BBC Wales Sport: “We had the foresight to plan not to play the night before a game, they did not and they wanted a rule put in place that you could not cancel a game in four weeks, so I don’t feel bad for them at all.”
The Steelers haven’t won a challenge cup for well over a decade, since the 2002-03 season, and surely won’t want a repeat of 2015, where the Steelers finished runners up to the Devils at Sheffield Arena.