This time last year we were about to embark on ‘Nine Days of Madness’ that would result in Steelers lifting the Play Off Championship trophy.
Then it was the Nottingham Panthers that stood in our way, this weekend the Guildford Flames and a man who was part of our championship side last season, Geoff Walker.
The big talking-point this week leading up to the game is what team head coach Paul Thompson will put out. Both Andreas Jamtin and Mathieu Roy are now back in the country and available for selection. Thompson can only play 14 of his 16 imports. Who plays and who at the 11th hour will miss the Prom.
For me who plays is easier than who doesn’t. Mathieu Roy might not have scored as many goals this season as last and might not be the league-dominanting player of 12 and 24 months ago but Roy remains the King of Sheffield, a man who has never let this club down for one shift. As committed a Steeler as there is.
Remember when we were kids at school playing football? You choose two captains and the rest of you line up against the wall. You pick first then I pick – well I pick the King every day of the week and twice on a Sunday.
If a chance falls to anyone in a Steelers shirt I still want it to fall to the King. More importantly so does he, he wants the puck and will go searching for it. Mathieu Roy never hides, this is his time.
I also take Jamtin. Here is a bloke who flew home to Sweden to be with his partner whilst she gave birth to his first child under the most difficult of circumstances and then immediately got on a plane to come back to be with us for this incredibly important weekend. This is a bloke who will eat pucks if that means winning. Remember this is a chap who won a World Championship Gold Medal with Sweden, he knows how to win and what it takes.
I can’t see a Steelers side going to war without Jamtin.
Now that’s the easy bit, but who sits out?
This where I bow to Paul and Jerry’s better judgement. We can all make our assumptions but it is they who will have to make their decision, sit down with two bitterly disappointed players and explain their decision. Actually do they have to explain their decision to anyone? Probably not. All they have to do is come up with the best side possible to take on and beat Guildford. That’s their job.
Thompson will be hoping that starting goalie Ervins Mustukovs will have come through a knock and be ready to take his place between the pipes on Saturday for the first leg of the quarter final at Sheffield Arena.
Brad Day has done remarkably well stepping in for Moose but this is the play offs and Thompson will want his best line and that surely includes his Latvian brick wall.
The Steelers have a chance this weekend to end the year on a high. A month or so ago there were predictions of a seventh place finish. Last weekend’s double victory ensured third place above Conference rivals Belfast and Nottingham.
Guildford will be a tough test, one of the best free scoring first-lines in the league will be on show. My view though is that the Steelers will win this series if they show they same attitude and desperation that they played with two weeks ago in beating Cardiff and last Sunday in dominating Manchester.
This series is about the Sheffield Steelers. The best Steelers teams have always played with a confidence and attitude, this team has shown those qualities from time to time this year. Now they have to be shown again.