Sheffield Steelers have thrown down the gauntlet to Cardiff Devils, saying ‘We have the best British players’ ahead of their Elite League clash at Ice Arena Wales on Saturday (7pm).
There is no doubt Steelers have formidable home-grown players in their team, but Devils could equally argue that their Brit Pack is second to none.
Club official Dave Simms, in his column for the Sheffield Star newspaper, boasts Sheffield steel is best – and that Ben O’Connor is the best British player in Elite League.
Simms also highlights Robert Dowd, Luke Ferrara, who played briefly for Devils in 2012-13, Cardiff-born Sheffield captain Jonathan Phillips, Cole Shudra plus Liam Kirk, a player he describes as a 16-year-old superstar.
Devils can counter that argument by Simms by pointing at their talented Brits including netminders Ben Bowns and Thomas Murdy plus Josh Batch, Mark Richardson, Matthew Myers, Luke Piggott and Chris Jones.
Bowns was born in Sheffield, but has chosen to play for Cardiff, saying: “Devils are the best club in the League.”
Devils have won four out of four against Steelers in League clashes this season. They are halfway through the eight-game series and Steelers know they have to break the Cardiff grip.
Patrick Asselin scored Devils’ penalty shootout winner last Sunday when the home team edged it 3-2, but Steelers had the chances to have turned the game their way.
Sims says: “We have had four games against Cardiff in the league and four defeats.
“Are the Devils are the best team in the country? No way. Don’t get me wrong, Devils have our number right now, but the Steelers have played some breath-taking hockey in their last two games against Cardiff.
“What this Steelers side has to do, though, is convert this exciting, fast and exhilarating style into victories against the big sides.
“I know the characters inside the dressing room better than most. My verdict is that they will. We are a third of a way through this campaign.
“There is a long time left, a lot of hockey to play. This Steelers side is playing a brand of hockey not seen over here before. Speed and transition other clubs can’t live with. Every week the work in practise gets the team better, faster, stronger and that’s why I’m so confident that this team will deliver.”
League leaders Devils take on Sheffield this Saturday and then travel to play Nottingham Panthers the next evening (4pm). They then have a third match in five days when they are at home against Dundee Stars in a Challenge Cup match next Wednesday (7.30pm).
Devils are hoping Chris Culligan and Sean Bentivoglio, who missed the last match against Steelers with minor injuries, will be fit for one or more of those games.
Ticket information is available on the club’s website or from the hotline on 0800 0842 666.
Cardiff Fire have a 100 per cent record in the National Ice Hockey League, winning 5-1 against Bristol Pitbulls in their last match.
Fire travel to play Pitbulls on Saturday (5pm) and then entertain Basingstoke Buffaloes at Ice Arena Wales on Sunday (6pm).