No love lost between Yorkshire rivals

Jason Hewitt and Ben Morgan go head to head in the latest chapter of Hull Pirates vs Sheffield Steeldogs (PHOTOS: Hull Daily Mail (Hewitt)/Peter Best (Morgan))

While it may be an NIHL Northern Cup clash, there’s no denying that the rivalry between Sheffield Steeldogs and Hull Pirates will have another entertaining entry in its story.

Both sides come together in Hull today, at 5.30pm, with Pirates already qualified for the next round, while Steeldogs need the win to help their progression hopes, especially after suffering a 5-1 loss to Telford Tigers last night, but they have a couple of games in hand.

But what is interesting is the title race in the NIHL North 1 Moralee Conference where both teams are enjoying 100% records in their league quest so far.

Add to that the fact Steeldogs beat Pirates to the league title crown so straight away, you have a game where both sides will go all out for victory and one the fans in Yorkshire are certainly relishing.

At the heart of the two teams are two former Sheffield Steelers team-mates, in Ben Morgan, the Steeldogs’ player-coach and Jason Hewitt, the man in charge of the Pirates.

While the Sheffield side are the ones with the bragging rights, it doesn’t make the game any less intense and Morgan admits the Hull fixtures are the ones his team always look for.

“It’s a great fixture, whether it’s played at our place or theirs and it’s one the players as well as the fans look forward to,” he said.

“Regardless of whatever the difference is between us in the standings, we’re playing our closest rivals. They’re a team that we know, to be successful, we have to take more points from them than they do from us at the end of the season.

“The rivalry between us in the last couple of seasons has really grown and it’s safe to say there’s no love lost between us.

“The games against Hull are always the ones we look out for when the fixtures come out at the start of the season.”

On the other bench, Pirates player-coach Hewitt has about a decade of experience from his time at the Steelers, where their games with Nottingham Panthers were the big ones to look out for.

Moving down a level, the locality of the rivalry seems to resonate more with him, because of the Yorkshire it has compared to the Elite League.

And like his counterpart Morgan, it’s also a fixture he also enjoys and believes pride plays a big part in wanting to succeed.

WATCH: Steeldogs edge Pirates in NIHL North Cup clash

“The crowds are unreal for the level we play for this game and the fans really embrace it,” Hewitt said. ‘We play in the cup and I expect us both to advance, but there’s an element of pride to be played for.

“Compared to my experiences of playing in Steelers-Panthers rivalry games in the Elite League, the level is not the same, obviously.

“It’s a very British, homegrown rivalry where a group of guys from Sheffield face a load of guys from Hull.  It’s a territorial thing and there’s plenty of good players.

“They’re good to be part of and there’s a different feel when there are players that have come from elsewhere.  The feel to this is definitely homegrown.”

Morgan and Hewitt played together at the Steelers between 2007 and 2009, with Morgan leaving to join Manchester Phoenix for a year before going to the Steeldogs in 2011, where he’s been ever since.

Hewitt stayed on at the Steelers and won four Elite League titles, leaving in 2016 to join Hull Pirates, taking over from Dominic Osman as coach in February 2017.

But what do they think of each other going into Sunday’s clash?  Is there any love lost there, or are they the best of pals away from the red hot atmosphere of a rivalry ice hockey game?

“I’ve got bags of respect for ‘Hewy’ and we’ve known each other for ten years, from when we played at the Steelers,” Morgan said.

“I think what they’ve done with Shane and the rest of the boys is fantastic and I think they’re trying to emulate what we’ve done here, in bringing through young local talent and supplement that with a couple of players outwith the region.

“I have a lot of respect for the organisation even the fans, who give us a lot of stick, but they play a massive part in the rivalry.”

Hewitt added: “Ben and I have known each other a long time and I think he’s done a great job over there. They’ve bought into his ideas and what he wants.

“They block a lot of shots and we’re a side that creates a lot of opportunities. He has a well drilled team and I have a lot of respect for them.

“It’s all about bragging rights and we want to give the fans those.  They come out and give us the backing and have done in my time here.  I expect the same and we look forward to it.”

Time for talking to stop as the puck drops on the latest chapter between Sheffield and Hull.

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