CHUCK WEBER has called for the people of Coventry to turn out in force on Saturday night at the Skydome as Coventry Blaze take on Sheffield Steelers in their playoff quarter final first leg.
It will be the biggest game in the Blaze’s season and near 3,000 fans are expected to cram into the Skydome which has hosted the Blaze since the turn of the millennium.
After a disappointing regular season, in which Blaze finished eighth overall, Weber’s men have been forced to face the league winners – who they ironically beat in the playoff final last season – over two games.
Blaze enter Saturday’s game on the back of a 6-2 win against Manchester on Sunday – something Weber is keen to repeat in 48 hours time.
Speaking exclusively to The Observer, Weber described the 2015/16 season as “consistently inconsistent” and said Saturday will be the first 60 minutes of a 120 minute hockey game that must be won.
He said: “We’re in a situation now where every shift is big, we have to accept the urgency, sacrifice and responsibility that comes with the playoff series.
“Nobody can afford to take a shift off, we know we can play with any team in the league and all season long we’ve wanted to make the playoffs.
“The series is definitely winnable, though Sheffield are a talented team and there’s a reason why they won the league – they’ve been the class of the league this season.
“If we play the right way we can beat anyone – though if we make some mistakes it could come to haunt us very quickly.”
It is a much changed Blaze squad compared to what the fans saw six months ago at the side’s first home fixture of the year.
The likes of Jordan Pietrus, James Isaacs, Brendan Walker and Chris Bruton have all blended in with the Blaze roster since signing at various points throughout the season.
“James (Pease) and I looked at the group and realised we had to shuffle our forward lines around,” said Weber.
“Bruton can score and is willing to stand in front of the net – something we lacked before his arrival.
“Brendan can create offence out of nothing and the puck explodes from his stick – their arrivals has made us a more balanced team.
“For a long time we used the Fisher, Robinson and Pietrus line but both Brendan and Chris’ arrival has helped us to spread our offensive play more.”
Weber was delighted to hear the news that Blaze fans will be positioned behind Coventry netminder Brian Stewart in block eight on Saturday night.
“No other team in the league puts visiting fans behind their goalie for two periods – we’re the only team that does it,” added Weber.
“We’ve made the adjustment now though in time for the playoffs and the move will bring plenty of enthusiasm and spirit to the building.
“At the moment though we’re just living for the playoffs and any spare time that I’ll have will be spent with my wife, son and puppy.”
Just days after finishing their regular season campaign, it was announced that Ashley Tait, Russ Cowley and Ross Venus made the provisional 28-man Team GB squad to face Poland in two exhibition games – and Weber will act as coach for the first time.
A fresh challenge will face Lockport-born coach who said he’s excited for the new challenge.
Weber said: “I’m excited to be coach of the Team GB squad.
“Ashley (Tait) and Russ (Cowley) have been part of the GB set-up for years and they can make a huge impact with their experience.
“We’ll margin the squad down and there’s big competition to make the final cut.”