Simmsey’s Sheffield Steelers column: Ben is a locksmith not a plumber!

Ben O'Connor, Tim Cranston and Mike O'Connor. Pic Dean Woolley
Ben O'Connor, Tim Cranston and Mike O'Connor. Pic Dean Woolley

With one goal and 13 assists Ben O’Connor leads the Steelers in scoring so far this year.

It’s a great start for O’Connor who has become a pivotal piece in the Steelers’ jigsaw. He is so valuable to us both on the power-play and in five-on-five situations.

Can he give us all heart failure at times? Well of course he can but the upside certainly outweighs those heart in your mouth times.

Benny can make something out of nothing, he is a locksmith, not a plumber.

Now there is nothing against plumbers, we all need them but there are times we need something special, something different and that’s when Benny pops up.

He is a man who can unpick a lock and produce that moment of brilliance.

Steelers' Ben O'Connor in action against Nottingham Panthers.

Steelers' Ben O'Connor in action against Nottingham Panthers.

Ben O’Connor is a game changer.

Fourteen points so early in the season is a great return – especially when you think how overworked the Steelers back-end has been in recent weeks. W

ith Davey Phillips unlikely to play again this weekend it will 14 and 15 games with just five defencemen and that takes it out of you and effects the team.

All five D men should take credit for how they have handled Scott Aarssen’s absence and now with Scott back coping with the loss of Phillips.

Whilst O’Connor leads the charge I give huge credit to Zack Fitzgerald.

I don’t think he gets the credit as a player he deserves. Think Fitzy and you think of him of him punching the life out of someone. Well I tell you if he never fought I’d take him on my back-end.

He is a genuine American Hockey League defenceman.

He plays smart, plays tough and makes us better.

I don’t know if you saw the photo of returning Steelers 1996 Grand Slammer Tim Cranston this week, he was with Mike O’Connor his team mate from that great side who is of course Ben’s Dad. The three of them in the photo.

Two old time superstars of the game.

Cranston for the Steelers and Mike O’Connor for partly what he did in Sheffield but as a genuinely respected figure after an incredible career with Durham.

Stood next to them is Benny; he was a young brat of a kid running around the Steelers dressing room creating havoc during his Dad’s time winning trophies.

Now young Ben is taking the mantle, he is a genuine leader of the Steelers, our League and the GB team. I think Ben always had the free spirit both as a person and a player.

Now as he gets older, married with a young one on the way, maturity has arrived. His play is still cavalier buts that’s him, now though comes more leadership, more maturity and with that the presence of mind to realise that this is his team, his generation.

The Steelers need that mature O’Connor as well, as the league just keeps getting better.

The quality rises with more and more teams competing at the upper level. Having home grown British players like Ben and Robert Dowd give the Steelers an advantage. This weekend we will need both of these guys at their brilliant best if we are to overcome the Nottingham Panthers once again.

The Steelers have had the upper hand in the two cup meetings but this is the real stuff now. The League or as I like to call it the 56-game play off series. Nottingham have invested this summer, they have upgraded and improved off the scale.

Finish one point above Nottingham and you have a great chance of being champions.

The series of Conference games between these two clubs will be crucial come the end of March. Two points this weekend in front of 7,000 fans at the Arena will be as important as any we pick up all year.

Benny can be a game changer, what better stage, what better night than this Saturday to raise that already high bar, well just a little bit higher. Cometh the moment, cometh Ben O’Connor, I say.

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