Sheffield Steeldogs can do no wrong. Having won the National Ice Hockey League Division 1 North by defeating rivals Hull, the Steeldogs continued this fine form into the play-offs with victory in the quarter finals.
A dominant performance saw the Steeldogs defeat Billingham Stars 9-3 last night at their Ice Sheffield venue, having won the first leg 4-3. If this had not been enough for the fans, the team presented their league trophy on the ice after the game.
After preparations for their league-winning season began in August, with off-ice conditioning sessions, the Steeldogs proceeded to win 28 of their 36 games over the course of their triumphant campaign.
For new player-coach Ben Morgan, who plays in defence, the focus levels need to remain at a high standard for the play-offs and there is no time for letting standards drop.
‘‘It is now about getting back to reality and normality, and returning to what we do best. We need to make sure over two games, we are the better side in these play-off fixtures, then hopefully progress through to the Northern final and then Coventry,’’ said Morgan.
‘‘It was an amazing effort for us to win the league title. We continue to do our business and it’s nice to take the plaudits as a result.
He added: ‘‘The Steelers contacted us to say ‘well done’ which was nice and we thanked them, but for us it’s massive for the players, the management and fans of Sheffield Steeldogs, not the Sheffield Steelers.’’
As well as being successful on the ice, the team have also developed its young players. 12 hopefuls have been training with the senior side, gaining invaluable experience and an insight into the title-winning team.
The morale within the squad is understandably high and this can only help the players achieve more in the play-offs, knowing they are league champions.
Defender Thomas Relf said: ‘‘We obviously know the play-offs are a different type of hockey, and over two games it’s a bit of a lottery as any team can beat anyone.
‘‘But knowing that all the hard work over the course of the past four months paid off will really benefit us.
“We know we can do it as we have been doing it consistently all season.’’
Such attitude was on display at Ice Sheffield as the Steeldogs raced into an 8-0 lead against Billingham before conceding three late consolation goals in the final 20 minutes in their 13-6 aggregate win.
Captain, Lewis Bell, said: ‘‘Being one of the three former EPL teams that dropped down into the new format, we’ve had teams raising their games against us when they’ve come and played us throughout the year.
‘‘It’s now going to be an added incentive for teams to beat the league champion, but we turn up ready to win every week and will continue to do the same in the play-offs.’’
The Steeldogs’ semi-final opponents will be Solihull Barons next weekend.
Solihull defeated Solway Sharks 9-7 on aggregate over the duration of their two quarter-final legs.