Panthers v Steelers preview

The two biggest rivals in British ice hockey meet for the second time in a week at the NIC on Saturday in what increasingly looks like will be a sell out crowd (in the home blocks anyway!)
Steelers will be looking for revenge after Panthers easily brushed aside their great foes in a one-sided encounter in Sheffield on Sunday. The comfort in which Panthers won that game plus the victory in Braehead on Wednesday makes you wonder how the Steelers can possibly get anything for this game, however as we all know nothing in these games can ever be taken for granted, but for me it will take a herculean effort for the Steelers to win on Saturday as I think the Panthers are just a much better team this season.
I don’t say that with any arrogance either, I had a conversation with David Simms in Hull a couple of weeks ago. He said that the difference between to two teams is depth of talent and when you think about it logically and look at it statistically he’s absolutely right.
There’s probably little to choose between the two sets of imports on paper (although the Panthers shade it for me), but where the Panthers stomp all over their rivals is in the quality of British players. Line up the Steelers Brits (Thomas, A.Tait, W.Tait, Phillips, Hewitt, Esders, Squires) against the Panthers Brits (Meyers, Lee, Maynard, Clarke, Myers, Lachowicz, Levers) and even the most rabid Steelers fan would have to admit our Brits are vastly superior. Just look at the points per game from each sides British contingent, 0.73 for the Panthers versus 0.54 for the Steelers. If you just look at the forwards the gulf becomes more apparent with 1.03 points for the Panthers forwards versus 0.57 for the Steelers equivalent. It is here where I believe the game will be won or lost.
Of course it would be loath of me not to mention the fight between Colt King and Guillaume Lepine on Sunday. A clear win for King, no argument about that (although the ‘battering’ some Steelers fans were claiming was far from the truth. No blood, no stretcher required, no medical attention needed that would make a claim of ‘battering’ justified) however the fact that Steelers continued to play in the same vain after the fight surprised me, they gained absolutely no momentum from it at all and if I was Ryan Finnerty that would worry me greatly. Will we see round two on Saturday? Possibly, but I think it’s more likely we’ll see another pair drop the gloves, possibly Lee v Hewitt or Wilson v Clark.
After what I witnessed last Sunday and the result in Braehead I can’t see Panthers losing this one at home,especially as a Panthers win would see qualification for the Challenge Cup Semi-Final, but this is Panthers v Steelers and how often does it go to the script? Even so I still go Panthers to win and win well.

TCW Live will once again be joining up with Steel Night Live to provide text commentary for the game. SNL’s Helen Bolton will be joining Iain Dilley, Adrian Spencer and myself for live coverage on this link:
SNL/TCW Live Panthers v Steelers

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