Nottingham Panthers have tools to control their own destiny, says Brandon Benedict
BRANDON Benedict says Nottingham Panthers have all the tools needed to control their own destiny as they get back on the trophy trail this week.
But the hard-working winger says it's paying importance to the little details during games that can swing a first Elite League title their way as well as winning a fourth successive Challenge Cup.
Their recent defeat to third-placed Sheffield cut their lead at the top of the table over Belfast to two points, with Steelers a further three points back.
And Benedict – who joined Panthers from Belfast two summers ago – believes the international break last weekend was very timely, given their tough schedule since the turn of the year.
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Ahead of tomorrow's Challenge Cup semi-final first leg against Belfast at the National Ice Centre, Benedict said: "We've got a big stretch that can make or break our season.
"As well as the cup, we've got 13 huge league games, so this nice little break gave us time to get refreshed, regroup and get our heads on straight.
"It's going to be a big stretch through February and March.
"We've had a good run and now we can control our own destiny.
"We can't concern ourselves with Belfast or Sheffield; how they play or whether they are winning or losing elsewhere.
"We just have to look after ourselves and do what we have been doing to win games."
The 30-year-old Benedict could be viewed as an unsung hero on the line with leading scorers David Ling and Bruce Graham.
But he is highly-valued by his team-mates and is recognised as being arguably the best defensive forward in the league, who still manages to chip in with the odd goal here and there.
He added: "I just try to stay focused and do the little things to try to help the team win – if it's putting numbers on the board or hitting guys at both ends of the ice.
"Brucie and Linger have been getting the goals; I try to open up some ice for them to do their thing and they are pretty opportunistic.
"But this whole team ticks all the boxes when you look at our squad.
"It's a good group with a lot of guys who can score, guys who work hard. There's also toughness, size, speed and great goaltending
"But if you look at Belfast and Sheffield some people will say the same thing about them.
"So it may come down to the head-to-heads when we will have to tighten our boots and show up; they are the games we've got to win.
"We didn't win one of those games in Sheffield but we have them twice more at home and in these 13 games we have left, we also have Belfast twice more."
In the last nine league games, against teams in their own tougher conference, Panthers have lost twice – to rivals Belfast and Sheffield.
But Benedict said: "We try to look at the positives; it's not perfect but we go into every game believing we can win, especially with our squad we have this year.
"Those defeats – 5-4 against Belfast and then against Sheffield, 3-2 going into the third – shows how close it was.
"We're in every game and sometimes little plays go our way and there may have been some other times when people would argue we didn't deserve to win.
"But that's sport. Some games you win, some you lose.
"The thing is, I feel that if you do the right things consistently, if you play the game the right way, it will generally work out and more often than not you're going to win.
"We've had a great run and now we want to get another going.
"But it's been an exciting season which is good for the league and good for the fans, too."