Well, there seems to be a buzz around the Steelers after last week’s incredible four point weekend with those two victories against Belfast. They have now moved up into second place in the standings and face the old enemy Nottingham on Saturday at the Arena in front of over 7,000 fans.
I don’t think many expected a 6-2 and 3-1 double against the then-hottest team in the league. Well, maybe one man did; head coach Paul Thompson.
I spoke with Paul every morning, afternoon and evening in the days leading up to the two big games - he took apart every recent Belfast game on the video and did what he does best. He prepared his team for two huge battles and he came out on top.
Of course he was helped by the return of Mathieu Roy - just the ultimate clutch player in big games - and the signing of 40-year-old Swedish winger Conny Stromberg. Collectively, the Steelers took Belfast apart, leaving the Giants shell shocked.
They expected four points against the Steelers; they expected to be sitting at the top of the table. They have now been beaten in five out of six games against Steelers.
Giants head coach Derek Walser was honest in his post-game interview: “The Steelers’ best players outplayed the Giants’ best players,” he admitted.
“The Steelers bought into their game plan.”
All comments referring to how well the Steelers played.
Have we ever seen a Steelers team block more shots than this one? I can’t seem to remember a side so committed throughout the line up.
Roy stands out as the player I think Walser was referring too. He is our clutch guy, our main goal scoring threat, yet he is a guy who takes more of a pounding, night in and night out, than anyone. In front of goal, opposition defencemen constantly hammer Roy; taking lumps out of him
A team’s stud, their standout goal scorer, isn’t normally a teams number one shot blocker. But nothing phases Roy. Last year in a crunch game, the Giants then head coach Steve Thornton told me: “Roy blocked a shot and our whole bench gasped.
“Not three seconds later, he had somehow rose to his feet and took another blast in his chest. I’m sure a couple of our guys even applauded him.”
When the game matters the most is when Roy comes to play. In a funny way, he reminds me of an old goalie of ours, Jody Lehman. He had that same ability.
The bigger the game, the bigger the man. Last year in Nottingham, with just two games left in the season and the Steelers needing to win, Sheffield found themselves down by a goal with a minute remaining. Roy scores; and then scores again, to collect not one but both points.
I don’t think he has played a full game fully fit for us in two years, so imagine how hurt he must have been to miss three games injured recently.
But to come back into the line up for two road games in Belfast, against the hottest side in the league, and score two goals on Friday and the insurance goal on Saturday was unreal. Yes, that’s what he is paid to do. But blimey, doesn’t he do it well?
Give credit also to Tyler Mosienko, who hit three against the Giants and was outstanding all weekend. Mosienko has been played at centre, at wing and on all three units as Thompson located the place he is best suited. He doesn’t stop and deserves his success.
Walser also admitted: “Their goaltender outplayed our goaltender.”
Steelers’ backstopper Marek Pinc was outstanding and to out play Stephen Murphy in his own backyard, you have to play well.
Steelers dominated game one last Friday but the following evening, the Giants gave it their all, outshooting Sheffield 33-15. Marek Pinc stood tall, and Steelers flew home on Monday four points better off and in second place in the league standings.
Next up for the Steelers is none other than the old enemy, Nottingham. Last time the two teams met at the Arena was on Boxing Day, with the Yorkshire boys victorious 2-1 in front of 9,000.
I say Yorkshire boys, as that’s the latest chant around the Arena: “Yorkshire, Yorkshire, Yorkshire!”
It started in Manchester on New Year’s Day after the great come-back against the Storm and, the following night in the Arena, 5,000 chanted it. I wondered if it was just a Sheffield/Manchester, Yorkshire/Lancashire thing but no; it’s continued and the travelling army of Steelers fans who made the trip to Belfast continued the Yorkshire commitment.
I’m sure we will hear it against those Nottinghamshire lads on Saturday as well.
Sheffield pride, Yorkshire grit... well, to win a championship you need all of those ingredients. The Steelers seem to be coming to the boil at just the right time for that big push. A win against Nottingham is always nice, but on Saturday it could be all so importan, too.
Come on, you Yorkshire boys. And that’s coming from me - a fat 50-year-old from Birmingham!