Sheffield Steelers welcome second crack at marvellous Minsk

Sheffield Steelers drive the net in Denmark. Pic by Dean Woolley
Sheffield Steelers drive the net in Denmark. Pic by Dean Woolley

Steelers won’t have an inferiority complex when they play Yunosk Minsk in the Continental Cup grand final.

The Belarussians hammered Sheffield 7-1 in last Friday’s Continental Cup opener in Denmark.

Paul Thompson’s men recovered to beat host club Rungsted Ishockey on Saturday and then overcame Kurbads Riga of Latvia to qualify for the final round.

Minsk, though, won all three of their games, scoring 13 goals and conceding only four and topped the mini-league.

Their stars Viktor Turkins, Pavel Razvadovski and Alexander Kogalev were first, second and third point scorers in the third

round.

Yet Thompson said his side would have no fears about facing them again in the finals, which will be held in Sheffield should

Steelers win the bidding process.

“One thing is for certain, we won’t be going into the game blind, like we did in this round” he said.

“We know a lot more about them than we did before, which means we can prepare so much better.

Ben O'Connor scored for Steelers against Riga on Sunday. Picture by Dean Woolley

Ben O'Connor scored for Steelers against Riga on Sunday. Picture by Dean Woolley

“But they are a high-end hockey club, they are up there with the best and as good as teams in the Champions Hockey League.

“We showed we had the character needed to bounce back after that game - it would not have been a disgrace had we gone out against teams as good as them. But we hung in there and now we go forward from this series with confidence.”

Steelers will come back down to earth quickly.

After the prestige of playing in the rarified atmosphere of European hockey, their next assignment will be at Milton Keynes Lightning’s rink on Saturday.

“We have to get back into the swing of things now” said Thompson.

“We will park this tournament and get back to our bread and butter.”

Thompson made special mention of Mark Matheson, the defenceman he has dubbed “Bobby Moore” because of his influence on defence. Davey Phillips has also been christened Jack Charlton to continue the 1966 World Cup comparison.

The coach rated Jonathan Phillips and Matt Marquardt as “outstanding” as were Rob Dowd and Levi Nelson - the latter being Steelers top CC scorer with three goals and an assist.

* The two other qualifying teams from the other group were Nomad Astana, from the Kazakhstan Hockey Championship and Ritten Sport of Italy.

* Thompson has identified two defencemen that he is interested in.

“We have made an offer to the agent for one of them and are hopeful we can get something concluded quickly” he said.

“The player seems very interested and now it’s just about getting the numbers to work for us both.

“We’ve been going back and forwards whilst we have been away in Denmark.

“We hoped Joonas Ronnberg would miss us and would return after a couple of weeks at home but his decision is made up so we have to move forward.

“We thank him again, if he hadn’t travelled from Finland to Denmark this weekend we wouldn’t be in the finals that’s for sure. He is a first class individual and we will miss him on and off the ice.”

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