Sheffield Steelers coach as prepared as possible for date with relatively unknown Kazakh side

Sheffield Steelers v Yunost Minsk.'Continental Cup, November 17, 2017. Rungsted, Denmark.'Picture: Dean Woolley.
Sheffield Steelers v Yunost Minsk.'Continental Cup, November 17, 2017. Rungsted, Denmark.'Picture: Dean Woolley.
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Sheffield Steelers’ coach Paul Thompson believes he is clued up as he can be about Friday’s Continental Cup opponents, Nomad Astana of Kazakhstan.

The team boss started from scratch when he began researching the opponents, whose club have only been in existence for 10 years.

But he has now studied videos of Yuri Mikhailis’s side in action in the both the international competition and their own domestic championship.

The club has 19 homegrown players and 16 from Russia on their books and have won 18 of their 26 League games so far. They are a force to be reckoned with.

“It was good to see them play and watch their systems” the coach said.

“We have not really focussed on individual players, just the team’s systems and habits.

“They have good speed and skill.

“Overall, they look good but I am pleased we are not going into this blind.”

Thompson rested “a few” of his players in the last Sheffield training session before they set off on the 1,500 mile trek to Minsk in Belarus, where they face Astana, the hosts and Italian side Ritton, in the three day finals.

“Hopefully we will be at full strength on Friday” he said.

Steelers departed from iceSheffield to Gatwick at 1.30am on Wednesday morning for a competition which is regarded as ice hockey’s equivalent of the Europa League in football.

Win this tournament and Steelers will automatically qualify for next season’s more glamorous Champions Hockey League - the stage that owner Tony Smith and his management team crave to increase the club’s brand across European hockey.

Thompson believes Friday’s opponents will be second favourites behind hosts Yunost Minsk, whom Steelers face on Saturday.

FACT SPOT: Ervins Mustukovs, the Steelers’ netminder, goes into the Continental Cup series in great form. After 40 games in both League and Challenge Cup, he has a 92.3 per cent save ratio. So far he has faced 1,140 shots!

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