In the build up to this Sunday’s top of the table clash with Sheffield Senators, James Morton caught up with Lions captain, and last week’s man of the match Luke Thomas. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: After the win on Sunday how is confidence in the dressing room for the game against Sheffield?
A: Confidence has been high all season after we kicked the year off with such a good result in Fylde. Even after the Hull loss, we managed to pick ourselves up and have a really good training session the following Thursday, showing just how much mental strength the team has. Sunday has shown just how close the league is, and will continue to be for the remaining games, this has just served to further boost our confidence.
Q: With Sam Gospel saving 70 shots on Sunday how much has that affected, not only the defence, but also the whole teams confidence?
A: The team haven’t taken much notice of the shots on goal tally for Sunday as we have doubts over its accuracy. The game was a lot closer than that tally suggests and we certainly bothered the Solihull keeper more than the SOG count claims. The defensive performance against the Barons was a lot better than in previous games, back to the level we showed in the draw away at Deeside. Although we still show defensive lapses at times, the unit as a whole is starting to pull together and we are confident to use the third and fourth pairings to give the top two pairings a breather, making us a stronger for more of the game.
Q: The win on Sunday must’ve been extra sweet for you, with it being your hometown club and former club, also with your dad being the manager of Solihull?
A: Leaving Solihull was a tough decision as it’s my hometown club and I have given 20 years to them from junior through to senior. However, I wasn’t getting the ice time I deserved and more often than not found myself on the end of some pretty poor treatment. To go back as captain of the Lions, playing a lot of minutes and walking away with the win felt great. I hadn’t got any ‘personal’ scores to settle, but it was nice to show the coaching staff and fans at Solihull just what I was capable of and just what I could of done back there. I don’t regret my summer move one bit, and Sundays result showed me exactly why. Plus, putting once over your old man is always a good thing.
Q: With Sheffield being second in the league, winning the match will give you the chance to extend your lead at the top on Sunday is this an added incentive for the team?
A: I’m trying to make sure the team aren’t paying much notice to the league, or taking the lead standings as an indication of how a game is going to go. We are just taking one game at a time, and keeping feet firmly on the ground. Besides, in a Nottingham V Sheffield derby, the occasion is more than enough incentive! Along with the off-ice team, I will keep track of the league but it’s too early in the season to be worrying about how many points ahead we are. League standings will be more important once we have got the next five games out of the way. Come the end of February, things should be a lot more clear.
Q: You say a Nottingham/Sheffield game always has an incentive regardless, with the reverse fixture being straight after the Christmas break is that the perfect situation for the team?
A: Things could be easier following the Christmas break, and facing Sheffield will always be a real test of character for the guys. However, it could also be seen as the best fixture to have as the rivalry makes a win even more important. A win against Sheffield in the New Year would really boost preparations for the run in and be a perfect start to 2013.
Q: With the great season the team is having, are you looking forward to every game?
A: At this level, if the guys aren’t looking forward to the games, then there is a problem! We all play for the love of the game, and every minute on the ice is important. Playing well and winning games obviously helps things along. For me personally, I’m loving hockey more than I have in a good few years, and cant wait for each training and game day to arrive. The Christmas break is coming at the wrong time for us really, considering the form we have hit. However, it should refresh and recharge the guys and help us stay strong until the end of the year.
Q: With Sheffield winning their last four games do you think you have what it takes to get two points from the game?
A: We had what it took to stop Solihull hitting a 5 game winning streak, and we have also had what it took to beat Sheffield home and away already this season. As long as we play our own game, be patient and take our chances, the 2 points should be staying at the NIC on Sunday. We can’t forget just how dangerous Sheffield can be; they are a solid unit with a great team work ethic and have earned their place in the league. Switch off at any point, or put in anything less than a 100% performance, and they will punish us.
You can catch Luke and boys in action at the National Ice Centre this Sunday (7.15pm face off) Ticket details are available here.