Sheffield Steelers head for their European adventure as underdogs

Matt Marquardt goes through a Minsk player in their earlier meeting. 'Picture: Dean Woolley
Matt Marquardt goes through a Minsk player in their earlier meeting. 'Picture: Dean Woolley

Sheffield Steelers will enter the unknown when they land in Belarus tomorrow.

They journey to Minsk, the capital, hoping to upset the odds and win the three team Continental Cup tournament.

It will be a new experience for well-travelled coach Paul Thompson, who has not set foot in the host stadium, host of Yunost Minsk, the team that beat them 7-1 in the qualifying round in Denmark, in November.

The coach said: “We leave Sheffield in the early hours of Wednesday morning, for Gatwick, then a five hour flight to Minsk.

“On Thursday have a skate before the tournament starts on Friday.

“It was imperative that we had an extra day to get ready after travelling. I have never been to Minsk, I think Andreas Jamtin has played against the KHL side there.

“The host team will be favourites - they are on their own ice and have everything set up for them to win - but the Kazakh team (Nomad Astana) are very good as well.

“But if we can play to our potential, we can beat all three.”

Thompson isn’t fazed by the fact Yunost gave his side a drubbing in the Danish encounter.

“In that game everything went in our net. I don’t think our goaltending was there that night or our focus. But we will be fresher and disciplined for this tournament.

“We have to make sure we are ready this time. We have video on the Kazakh team and we play them first (Friday 4pm)

“We know how Minsk play and we will watch the Minsk v Ritton game, so we will know how the Italians will play, too.”

Sheffield persuaded Joonas Ronnberg to play for them in the qualifying session- but have not asked for his assistance on this occasion.

The four match ban handed out last weekend to Zack Fitzgerald does not include the Continental Cup, so he will play.

FACT SPOT: Kazakh side Nomad Astana have no fewer than 19 Russian players on their books. They are a young team - the average age is is just 22. That compares with just shy of 29 for Sheffield Steelers.

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