Reasons to be cheerful

Sunday teatime, and back into the routine of watching the Steelers for another season. It was Steelers’ fourth pre-season outing, and their second in successive nights against a side newly promoted to the SHL, Timra IK. The Swedish side had taken Saturday’s game with a 2-0 win. What did I make of Sunday? Read on..

For Sunday’s match, Steelers iced the same line up that finished the game on Saturday night. That meant skipper Jonathan Phillips was on the sidelines alongside fellow injured team-mates Robert Dowd, Matt Rupert and player-assistant coach Mark Matheson. Chris Lawrence still didn’t have any equipment so did not ice. Jackson Whistle started between the pipes for the Steelers with Brad Day backing him up.

Timra came out of the blocks fast and caused the young British netminder to make a save inside the first 30 seconds, the first of numerous saves he made all night. They took the lead at 4:28 when after hitting the post on one foray, recycled the puck to allow Jansson to finish well past Whistle. Yet Steelers were impressive in giving their visitors not much time to settle and that told with the equaliser. Great work from Justin Buzzeo saw him feed Evan McGrath from behind the net and he took one touch before wristing a well taken effort into the net. Timra regained the lead with 3:49 left in that opening period, Rickard Palmberg on the man advantage whilst Stefan Della Rovere sat a kneeing minor.

What was impressing me was that despite being short on numbers, Steelers were up there with their compete levels which I am sure must have impressed Paul Thompson in the short time this new look squad have been together. Players were there for each other, and there’s certainly a lot of energy on the roster too. The numbers dwindled more in the second period when Brandon Whistle took a sore one when blocking a slapshot, he subsequently went down the tunnel and for x-rays at the Northern General which stretched the resources that bit more.

There was to be only one further goal in the middle period, Guster scoring that one as Steelers started to pick a few penalties here and there as the game started to get more physical; and prove there is no such thing as a friendly game. Whistle was playing fantastic, tracking the puck well and showing why he was wanted by the Steelers this season. The GB internationalist doing superbly well to deny Timra a fourth when the visitors broke on a 2 on 1; he’s quickly becoming a fan favourite with the Steelers supporters.

As for the others, Ryan Martinelli was doing a solid job and playing a lot of smart hockey (proving my initial thoughts to be unfounded) whilst Jiri “George” Gula looks useful too to say it is his first season outside the Czech Republic: the defenceman seems to have a more decent shot on him and on one occasion struck the post with an effort in the latter stages of that opening period. Josh McFadden and Aaron Johnson also gave a good account of themselves, whilst young Jordan Griffin certainly didn’t look out of place when he was on the ice either. He looks a very good prospect indeed at just 16.

Forward wise, McGrath looks a standout already: always looking to create something out of nothing. Buzzeo and Tanner Eberle have energy as does Ryan Rupert who seems to be prepared to play with an edge about him and looks rather decent on the face off dot. Josh Pitt showed signs he could be good too and Della Rovere appears to be a steady third liner which we were looking at. Back to the game, there was a fourth goal for the visitors (special props to the noisy wee bunch of visiting supporters who were in great voice from start to finish) in a penalty strewn final period; Gallo converting on a 5 on 3 whilst Della Rovere and Buzzeo were both taking a seat.

The game itself ended 4-1 with Jackson Whistle scooping the Steelers Man of the Match award for a superb game in net. To be honest the result really didn’t mind; after all it is just pre-season and is all about conditioning and getting to gel as a team ahead of the opening game in Nottingham on 1 September. But a few early season injuries mean that can be a bit of a concern, hence Steelers will be hoping to use the next two weeks to finish their training camp but most importantly get those injured players recovered ahead of that opener. It certainly opens the door for players like Kieran Brown, who plays with a maturity beyond his years in every shift he takes, to stake a claim for regular ice-time. All in all, nothing to be disheartened about. I certainly didn’t come out of the game feeling disappointed at all.

Thanks for reading..

Main header picture courtesy of Dean Woolley

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