Revealed: the brave coaching decision behind Sheffield Steelers’ win at Belfast Giants

Sheffield Steelers' Ervins Mustukovs during Sundays Elite Ice Hockey League game at the SSE Arena, Belfast. Pic: Photo by William Cherry
Sheffield Steelers' Ervins Mustukovs during Sundays Elite Ice Hockey League game at the SSE Arena, Belfast. Pic: Photo by William Cherry

A bold decision by Paul Thompson triggered Sheffield Steelers’ big win at Belfast Giants - and sent out a signal to his skating squad.

After losing at the SSE Arena on Saturday, the coach switched three centremen, promoting Markus Nilsson from the fourth line to play alongside Mathieu Roy and Colton Fretter.

John Armstrong found himself on the third line with Guillaume Desbiens and Mike Ratchuk and Yared Hagos paired up with Luke Ferrara and Jonathan Phillips.

“We weren’t scoring enough goals five-on-five and I felt it was time to shake things up” said Thompson after Armstrong and Hagos were among the marksmen in the 4-1 win.

“We had a team meeting before leaving our hotel and showed them what we need to achieve a positive outcome.

“It’s not a democracy but I have to say there was no negativity and everybody was very focused.

Chris Higgins with Sheffield Steelers' Christoffer Bjorklund

Chris Higgins with Sheffield Steelers' Christoffer Bjorklund

“Nilsson was rewarded for his form: he has done better than anybody with assists recently, but his attitude is always first class. His speed and puck skills are excellent” said Thompson.

“Armstrong responded to playing with fresh linemates by scoring. The fourth line had their best game for many weeks with Yared as centre.

“You cannot have any complacency at this club and when you make changes you have to stand by your decisions.

“The changes worked and we got the balance right. Now we look forward to hosting Edinburgh Capitals on Wednesday in one of our games in hand on the leaders.”

* Steeler Liam Kirk has been namded in the Great Britain Under-18s squad for April’s IIHF World Championship tournament in south Korea.

The six-team U18 tournament will involve GB and Korea, along with Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania and Romania from 1st to 8th April 2017.


Ethan James - Essa Stallions, Canada

Angus Laing - Sheffield Academy

Emergency netmider

Lewis Davies - Cardiff Junior Devils


Lewis Baldwin - Manchester Phoenix

Ed Bradley - White Midgets, CIHA

Cameron Pound - Cornwall Colts, CIHA

Liam Redwood - Nottingham Lions

Sam Russell - OHA, Canada

Ben Solder - OHA, Canada

Darren Stattersfield - Solway Sharks


Adam Barnes - OHA, Canada

Jordan Buesa - Braehead Clan

Tyler Cooper - Shattuck St Mary’s, USA

Rio Grinell-Parke - Bracknell Bees

Harry Gulliver - Ogden Mustangs, USA

James Hounsome - Everest Academy, Canada

Mac Howlett - Saipa, Finland

Jordan Kelsall - Okanagan UK

Liam Kirk - Sheffield Steelers

Richard Krogh - HC Lugano, Switzerland

Chad Smith - Fife

Finlay Ulrick - Northwood School, USA

Josh Waller - IHC Pisek, Czech

Long-list reserves

Louis Colvin - OHA, Canada

Harry Ferguson - Edinburgh Capitals

Joe Hazeldine - Nottingham

Luke Jackson - OHA, Canada

Will Kerlin - OHA, Canada

Morgan Pizzo-Clarke - OHA, Canada

Caly Robertson - Fife

Aidan Strangeway - Notre Dame, Canada

Peter Toth - OHA, Canada

Kyle Watson - Mid-Fairfield Rangers, USA

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