Defence must come first, insists Sheffield Steelers’ coach Tom Barrasso

Anthony DeLuca's goals have been a big influence in Sheffield Steelers' recent form - but he still needs to smarten up defensively, says coach Tom Barrasso.

The team boss has been as pleased as anyone with the way the winger has started to provide points after a modest start in which his conditioning needed to improve.

Anthony DeLuca  - a threat around the net

Anthony DeLuca - a threat around the net

His goal in the 6-4 win over Manchester Storm, in the team's last outing, was an important one and showed his flair and intensity around the crease.

Asked whether DeLuca had evolved in the way he'd hoped, the coach replied: "Parts yes, parts no.

"Offensively Anthony is a talented player, he definitely works harder on the offensive end of his game than he does the defensive end.

"For me, that's a non-starter. Ig he is going to be in our top six, he is going to be playing against good players. He's got to be sound defensively, that's the area of the game that I stay focused on because if we cannot defend we cannot win.

"The trick is to get him to buy into our system.

"To get him to do the work defensively, to be able to battle pucks out, he is a smart hockey player - it is a question of being committed to do the work."

Barrasso thinks the defensive side of his game had "always been a weakness" for the player but was now being addressed.

Generally, the coach said: "Our offensive game is fine, we need to focus on our defensive zone."

Steelers have scored 100 goals exactly so far in the 2018-19 League programme - but have shipped in 106.

They renew their acquaintance with Manchester, in Altrincham, on New Years Day, where Ryan Finnerty's men will hope to extract revenge on their pad.