Simmsy column: Sheffield Steelers must do it right against Cardiff Devils, this time

Ben O'Connor - in friendly dialogue. Pic: Dean Woolley
Ben O'Connor - in friendly dialogue. Pic: Dean Woolley

Three wins from their first three Elite league games – the assault on an unprecedented third straight league title has started well although on Sunday Steelers face their sternest test when the Cardiff Devils arrive.

Devils have dropped just three points in their opening six games and arrive at the Arena full of confidence that they can go one better than their second place finishes of the last two seasons. They enjoyed a Challenge Cup victory at the Arena this season too.

Paul Thompson’s side will be without Levi Nelson, though there is an outside chance the popular forward could be back as early as next weekend.

The medical staff are also working around the clock on Ben O’Connor who suffered a hamstring injury in the 5-1 victory over Belfast like week.

Hockey players don’t normally get hamstring injuries, I can only recall Scott Ricci before Ben and Ricci missed games with a blister once!

Ben was unlucky, a late hit caused his body to fall and his was caught, trapped and then twisted causing the hamstring to pop.

O’Connor was in blistering form as well, offensively putting up great numbers and defensively at the weekend part of an improved back end that conceded just two goals on two excellent performances in Braehead (won 2-1) and at home against Giants (won 5-1)

The main talking point is the form of Jesse Schultz. A three goal weekend including the game winners against both Braehead and Belfast.

After a slow start Schultz has been on fire. His form saw him moved on to the club’s top line, then with Nelson out he was switched to play with Dowd and Valdix where he continued his scoring run.

Thompson will hope that his offensive powerhouse team can continue their goal scoring ways when Swinton-born goalie Ben Bowns back-stops the Devils on Sunday. For the last two years it has been Steelers who have pipped Cardiff to the title, on the last weekend of both seasons.

The eight league games against each other start on Sunday, win the series and you are favourites for the ultimate prize, the league title.

Devils player/coach Andrew Lord seems to be more coach than player this season – the skates are in the bag and the suit is on as he directs a skilled outfit. Cardiff like Sheffield have depth and have already shown they are gunning for a prize they haven’t received in the Elite League era.

Andreas Valdix has certainly found form.

The move from Austria in the summer could prove to be the best bit of business the Steelers did in the off season. Everyone at the club worried how Fredrik Vestberg would be replaced after his player of season year – now there is a tad of “Fredrick who” as Valdix skates through the opposition.

Valdix seems to have it all, a fantastic shot as he showed in Braehead last Friday when scoring the Steelers first goal – his creative play has helped both Dowd and Nelson start the year with a bang and his defensive responsibilities are never overlooked either. The Swede is the real deal.

We are also seeing the old Ervins Mustukovs. That goalie who set records with us in 2012 is back to his best shutting the door on the opposition.

Moose’s performance in Glasgow last Friday was sublime and the big stops were a major reason why Steelers brought home two points.