‘Fresh start’ is the order for Flames clash

‘Fresh start’ is the order for Flames clash

Telford Tigers’ title-winning squad will be told to treat tomorrow night’s opening play-off encounter with Guildford Flames (7.45pm) like the start of a new season.

The EPL champions face Guildford, Peterborough and Sheffield over the next two weeks, for the right to play in the finals tournament in April.

The round-robin competition starts against a Flames side that finished fifth in the standings, having lost 4-2 in Telford just ten days ago.

But for Tigers coach Tom Watkins, the formbook will become meaningless when the play-offs get under way.

He said: “Everything happens much more quickly in the play-offs and the intensity levels for both teams will be much different.

“We have to think of it as the start of a new season and we’ll have different goals. Commitment levels will be up with everybody.

“It is a short format competition and one that everybody on all the teams raise their game for.

“It’s the finale to the season, so all of us want compete well and get to the final four tournament on Coventry.

“We’ll start again, identify roles and responsibilities again, and do whatever it takes.”

Fitness could also play a key role in the competition, with Telford having avoided major injuries during the title run-in.

Watkins added: “I think it is expected that guys will play through injuries and put themselves on the line during play-offs.

“They’ll need to get their noses dirty, make hard plays and perhaps take some hits to make a play.

“Our competitive nature, our commitment, our intensity will all be heightened, although we’ll control our emotions.

“Teams will be playing on the edge and we’ve got to have urgency, that’s for sure.”

Telford will also be looking forward to a return to competitive action tomorrow night, having secured the EPL title almost four weeks ago.

“What’s done is done and it will be good for us to get back into playing really competitive games,” Watkins said.

“We’ve had a few weekends to recharge our batteries, so it will be fun to play back to back, in your face and having to grind out results. That will be important.”

The new play-off format will also see Telford host Peterborough Phantoms on Saturday March 25th, before travelling to face Sheffied Steeldogs the next day.

They then make the trip to play Guildford Flames on Wednesday March 29th, ahead of a clash against the Phantoms on Peterborough on Saturday April 1st.

The final play-off group game will be against Sheffield, at Telford Ice Rink, on April 2nd.

For tickets to the play-off games, go to www.tigershockeyuk.com.

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Tigers captain Jason Silverthormn watches the Guildford netminder make a save