Peterborough Phantoms’ captain James Ferrara says his team are facing their toughest challenge of the EPL season.
Phantoms held a five-point lead at the top of the table going into the festive period, but four defeats in a row has seen them overtaken by Basingstoke Bison.
They travel to Sheffield Steeldogs on Saturday, before returning to home ice the following day to face MK Lightning, and Ferrara (above) wants a fast start in both games.
“We started all four of the games slowly and were behind at the end of the first period in each of them,” he said.
“We can’t afford to do that, especially against the top teams, as it makes the job so much harder.
“We need to ensure we come flying out of the blocks this weekend and get on top of the games early on.
“It’s a case of the sooner a goal comes the better, and we certainly hope it will happen in Sheffield.
“But it is important we focus on executing our game plan and not worry about the results that have already gone.
“Chances will come and it is about putting them away to get the confidence flowing again.
“It is the first time this season we have found ourselves fighting adversity and it is against ourselves more than anything because of the lack of goals.
“The guys are all disappointed as they expect a lot from themselves and it hasn’t really happened for them lately.
“Things are not always going to go your way during a 54-game season, but we need to focus on playing to our strengths individually and collectively.
“It is certainly a learning curve, but hopefully our character and togetherness will shine through.”
Sheffield, who’ve won eight of their last 11 league games, follow up the Peterborough game with a trip to Telford Tigers on Sunday.
Steeldogs currently lie seventh in the EPL table, six points behind Swindon Wildcats with a game in hand, and Player/Coach Greg Wood wants to put some pressure on the teams above them.
“There are still twenty matches to go and we need to keep chipping away and picking up points each weekend.
“The way the team have been playing over the past month shows we can play against any team – the results have proven that.
“It’s a very fine margin between winning and losing in this league. There are no easy nights, every game you have to be ready, switched on and competitive.
“We’ve had a tough Christmas schedule with five games in eight nights. We have to be optimistic, train well and be ready to go when Peterborough come to iceSheffield.”
Tom Watkins has warned there is more to come from his resurgent Telford Tigers squad, as they bid to keep the pressure on the teams above them.
The reigning champions, who travel to Guildford Flames on Saturday ahead of Sheffield’s visit the following day, have won their last seven games to quietly move into title contention.
The last time Telford played Guildford was in December, losing 7-2 to the Flames at home – but Watkins believes his team can keep their winning streak alive.
“We went into that game playing with confidence, but had a bad night at the office,” he said.
“Sometimes those things keep you honest and it has kept us honest. Since then we have upped our game and played with more discipline, making it harder for teams to play against us.
“For the Sheffield game, it’s always important to win at home and the size of our pad makes it tougher for visiting teams. It keeps the game quicker and more intense.
“Home performances are everything. You can pick up points on the road, but it is hard to stop a side that is consistently winning at home.”
Basingstoke Bison v Manchester Phoenix
Guildford Flames v Telford Tigers
MK Lightning v Bracknell Bees
Sheffield Steeldogs v Peterborough Phantoms
Swindon Wildcats v Hull Pirates
Bracknell Bees v Guildford Flames
Hull Pirates v Basingstoke Bison
Manchester Phoenix v Swindon Wildcats
Peterborough Phantoms v MK Lightning
Telford Tigers v Sheffield Steeldogs
(Image permission: Phil Palmer)