Watkins willing to let experience lead the way at Coventry

Tom Watkins will prepare his title-winning side for a “do or die” weekend, as the club approaches its first-ever appearance at the EPL play-offs in Coventry.

The county men qualified for the final-four showdown after an 11-3 aggregate victory over Sheffield Steeldogs, taking them closer to a triple crown of major trophies.

They head into the tournament as favourites to clinch a further title, with confidence high after collecting both the EPL championship and British Challenge Cup.

Saturday afternoon sees them take on Peterborough Phantoms in the first semi-final.

And Watkins will call on his senior players’ experience in play-off competitions to guide his side to glory at the Coventry Skydome.

He said: “I don’t mind who we play and to be just two games away from another major championship is a huge achievement for all the guys. Every other team will be thinking the same thing, so it’s going to be a fantastic weekend.

“We’ll put everything on the line, and it’s do or die. You either progress or go home for the summer. We’ve got a great group of players and they’ve played a lot of play-off ice hockey in the past.

“That experience will stand us in good stead, but it’s on the day and it’s 60 minutes. I stressed to the players that every period, and every shift matters.”

Next weekend sees The Tigers play their semi-final on Saturday, with the final taking place on Sunday afternoon.

Tigers owner Wayne Scholes, meanwhile, has refused to deny rumours that parent company Red Hockey has bought a 34% stake in Manchester Phoenix.

Red Hockey purchased 49% of Bracknell Bees earlier this month, and is known to be hunting an expansion of its powerbase.

He said: “We’ve had some great talks with the guys in Manchester and it’s clear that we can help each other. I have always said that by working together, we can stabilise the sport in this country.

“Making ice hockey in the UK sustainable is a huge part of the plan we have at Red Hockey. There is no reason that by working with three teams, the decision-making process can’t be made much simpler.”

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