Stingrays: Play-off pressure will not get to me, says Jeff Smith
DEFENCEMAN Jeff Smith is adamant he's not feeling the pressure as Rapid Solicitors Hull Stingrays' battle to reach the end-of-season play-offs reaches make-or-break time.
Stingrays have just eight games left to make up the four-point gap to the team currently occupying the eighth and final spot – tonight's opponents Braehead.
Failure in Scotland tonight or against Fife at Hull Arena tomorrow could all-but seal the Stingrays' fate.
However, the 32-year-old Canadian is remaining cool in the face of the mounting odds.
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He said: "My old coach told me the pressure is just a word. If you don't regard it as pressure, it's just two points so I'd say there's no pressure on us.
"Maybe it's more on the teams who are looking down and thinking okay we're two or three points in front, but pressure is just another word, like an apple, it doesn't mean anything.
"You go out, do your job and do the best you can. If the hockey gods shine on you they shine down.
"We've been getting a few more bounces recently than in the past.
"It all comes down to hard work and which team will work that extra inch. Hopefully, that's us."
And if Smith is having any doubts about the task ahead, he's keeping them well under wraps.
Instead, he presents an upbeat front on what could be the most vital weekend of the season.
"If we can continue how we played last weekend this weekend, I'm not guaranteeing anything, but I think we'll like the results," said Smith.
"Oddly enough it's the same two teams, it's not like we need to change our systems or game plan. We know these teams and how to beat them, we have beaten them before.
"We have to stick to our systems, I know it's cliche after cliche, but that's all it is. We have to trust our coach and systems and the guy beside you.
"The guy beside you has to battle for you as you will battle for him, that's hockey. Our next three games are huge, but I still think we have a chance, absolutely."
The critics suggest that as Stingrays have failed to close that nagging four or five-point gap since the start of 2013, the chances of succeeding are remote.
Last season they were involved in a similarly tight battle, and only snatched seventh place on the final weekend of the league season.
Not only did they grab seventh, they also proceeded to cause a shock by beating league runners-up Sheffield to book their semi-final place.
It's time to walk the walk, not just talk it.
"It comes down to the dressing room," said Smith.
"If one guy hums and haws and thinks 'I don't know if we can do this' it'll fall apart, but everyone is firing on all cylinders, everyone wants to make the play-offs, everyone.
"There were some sore people returning from Fife last Saturday.
"I'm one of them with ankle and feet problems, but as soon as I pull my skates on I think 'okay let's go' and I want to make the play-offs.
"It's that mentality, it's 'let's do this'. I really think we can do it, we have the right guys, and Sylvain Cloutier has got our three lines of players rocking."