Rod Sarich believes success in the Champions League against crack European teams will depend on how quickly the largely new Sheffield Steelers team can gel and adapt to new coaching systems.
Steelers start their jaunt in the competition at Frölunda Gothenburg, Sweden, on August 20 before travelling to Finland to meet JYP Jyväskylä.
It is a tall order, especially when the team only got on training ice for the first time yesterday. Sarich, who had a spell at Finnish team Blues in 2004 knows it will be a big ask to get decent results, particularly on the road, before the return legs.
“How we perform in depends on how well we get together in the first week or so beforehand” he said. “I’d much rather play the games at the end of September when we’d be rolling a bit in our systems and be more effective. Our style will probably be more direct than their’s, but Swedes and Finns are good defensively. When I played over there the games were low scoring affairs, 2-1 or 1-0. But if we play aggressively and sneak a couple of goals, that will be a good start” said Sarich.
“The challenge will be in how well co-ordinated we are, we have to be, if we are going to be effective. The flip side is that it’s a great way to have a pre-season, we will be more organised than other teams in our League and the team-bonding by going away to Sweden and Finland will do us good.”
In the domestic division, Sarich expects Coventry Blaze to be a handful. “They have a good team, and are building off last year (they beat Sheffield in the play off final.) They will be better this year.
“They struggled early last year but (coach) Chuck Weber improved them. They got better all round and have a ‘keeper (Brian Stewart) who is very good down the stretch. And don’t forget the wirey greyhound Ashley Tait - he has been around a long time and he’s never slowed down.”
The Sheffield d-man expects to play a solid defensive role under Paul Thompson. “He said he’d want me to be a steady-Eddie, so probably I’ll be partnered up with a young guy who is running around the ice all night.”
Sarich added: “I can play different positions so I am hoping to get a chance to be offensive and get on the Power play, but I am happy to play any role they are looking for.
“My body is holding up alright, it takes a little bit longer to get warmed up but I should be better this season than last, when I came back after a year off.”