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Elite League Final Four weekend

Ice hockey

It is the last weekend of the British ice hockey season and the spotlight falls on the National Ice Centre in Nottingham for the Final Four weekend.

Four teams, three games, two days, one trophy. It is the ultimate in winner-takes-all and this season it brings together some of the hottest rivalries in the sport.

Saturday's first semi-final throws together Elite League winners and defending play-off champions Sheffield Steelers and the Cardiff Devils, who, despite not being geographically close, tend to produce feisty and intense games with plenty of high drama.

The second showdown will be between Coventry Blaze and Nottingham Panthers, who have both won the end of season event in the last three years.

The winners will then go head-to-head in the final on Sunday.

With the stakes so high, BBC Radio Sheffield's Seth Bennett caught up with the coaches of the four teams to preview the action.

SHEFFIELD STEELERS HEAD COACH DAVE MATSOS
Dave Matsos

"It's excitement really, it's such a great weekend, the intensity of the fans, and there are four great teams competing in the Final Four.

"It will be tough with our opponents being Cardiff, it was a tight game last year and I expect the same this year. I don't think we'll see a high scoreline.

"In my mind it's a pretty decent match. They are a very big, hard-nosed team and they play very aggressive."

CARDIFF DEVILS PLAYER-COACH GERARD ADAMS
Gerard Adams

"I can't wait to get on the ice, the whole weekend is so exciting. There is so much hype, the crowd jumps on other teams' bandwagon and it's a real special thing to be part of.

"I think Sheffield have a bit more speed but Cardiff are a little bit bigger and stronger and it's one of those things that if we can adapt to the big ice I think we can do well.

"We have been in very good form and although I have not seen all of the other teams down the stretch I would imagine that we are the form side going on results."

NOTTINGHAM PANTHERS PLAYER-COACH COREY NEILSEN
Corey Neilson

"I think both matches are interesting - there is a healthy rivalry built up between us and Coventry as well as Sheffield and Cardiff.

606: DEBATE
Monty Fried Chicken

"I think for the fans it's going to be an exciting weekend of aggression, speed and skill.

"I'm really confident in my club, I think my hockey club overall is very strong and I think we have a great amount of balance, three solid lines and five really committed good skating defencemen."

COVENTRY BLAZE HEAD COACH PAUL THOMPSON
Paul Thompson

"I think they are going to be two great games. There has been a bit of nitty gritty between the Devils and Steelers all year and we've been no different with the Panthers.

"From a fans' point of view it's a great Saturday semi-final day because both games will be very competitive.

"I've been in these situations a lot of times before and we have had great success. I think we are classed as the underdogs against them this time around, but that doesn't faze me."



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see also
NHL fixtures/results/standings
04 May 06 |  Ice Hockey
British ice hockey results
13 Oct 05 |  Ice Hockey
Neilson excited to face old enemy
01 Apr 09 |  Ice Hockey
Neilson hails Richardson's role
31 Mar 09 |  Ice Hockey
Steelers face Devils in play-off
30 Mar 09 |  Ice Hockey
Blaze into semis after late show
30 Mar 09 |  Ice Hockey


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