DANNY Stewart is determined to avoid a case of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s Show’ tonight as Newcastle Vipers take on Coventry Blaze at Whitley Bay, writes JAMES HUNTER.
Vipers’ were deservedly lauded for their excellent 4-3 Challenge Cup semi-final first leg win over Nottingham Panthers in midweek, which gives them the slenderest of leads to take into tomorrow’s second leg at the National Ice Centre.
But tonight they have to put their cup quest out of their minds and focus on their bid to secure the final play-off berth as they take on in-form Blaze, who were on fire last weekend as they won their double-header against basement side Edinburgh Capitals 15-0 and 12-2.
Vipers have beaten Blaze home and away in the last two meetings between the sides, and Stewart warns his old side will be out for revenge when they arrive at the Bay.
“It doesn’t get any easier, the games come thick and fast and they’re all big games for us when we’re chasing the play off spot,” said player-coach Stewart.
“Coventry will be coming in fired up, they scored a lot of goals last weekend so confidence will be up. I know Thommo [Blaze coach Paul Thompson] and the players down there haven’t forgotten the past couple of games, so we’re going to have to play exactly the same way as we did on Wednesday.” Vipers go into tonight’s game sitting ninth in the table, five points behind Dundee Stars who occupy eighth-place and the final play-off spot.
Then tomorrow night sees Vipers try to complete the job against the Panthers (4pm), but Stewart says his side cannot sit back and try and simply try and protect their narrow advantage.
“We have to approach it from zero-zero,” said Stewart.
“Nottingham are very tough to play in their own barn, we have to start fresh, take it one shift at a time and try to guts it out.”
Meanwhile, Panthers have been read the riot act by coach Corey Neilson, who has demanded they make amends tomorrow.