Time again to get those creative writing juices flowing once more and to write about the Steelers. It has certainly been a week and a bit over here in Steelerland, a week that again won’t be remembered for the right reasons. Remember though, these are my own personal views and not that of the Sheffield Steelers.
The week started on a sour note it has to be said when on Monday afternoon, the news broke that Paul Thompson had left the Club with immediate effect as General Manager and Head Coach. Anyone who is good at reading a person’s body language, could tell that even after the 3-2 win over Nottingham last Saturday: Paul looked like he was drained and had had all the enthusiasm sucked out of his body. Whilst I’ve never been a Thompson fan, it was sad to see someone so broken physically and mentally. However what it did create was mass hysteria.
The fanbase which had been split before his departure, saw even more divisions. Some happy to see Paul leave but some thinking the absolute popular opposite. Whilst there were cracks appearing in his coaching make-up, I would have liked to have seen him remain as the General Manager as he was definitely putting the pieces in place for the Steelers of the future. After all, as I alluded to in my critique, Paul gets full marks though for bringing on players such as the future NHL talent that is Liam Kirk, and discovering gems such as Kieran Brown who is absolutely fearless and Jordan Griffin who is a defenceman to watch providing he is nurtured the same way.
Still that wasn’t all.
Assistant coach Mark Matheson was appointed as interim head coach, and one of the first things he had to deal with was a player departure. On Thursday, Canadian forward Ryan Martindale left the team after just two games for personal reasons. The fans were still tearing each other apart though, the fiercely protective ones who believe the media spin and thought it was still incredibly harsh up against the ones who were vehemently thinking the absence of PT was a step forward. Martindale’s replacement got announced and it was a return to Sheffield for “The Wasp”, Jonas Westerling who in my parallel lookalike universe is a dead ringer for Swedish power metal vocalist Joacim Cans of Hammerfall. I’ve actually told Jonas this, to which he laughed and to an extent: agreed.
Friday saw Tony Smith break his silence and make a statement; and following from the Matheson and Robert Dowd ones from earlier in the week: it was a perfectly eloquent statement that fans whether they be pro- or anti-Thompson could nod and agree. It had the concluding paragraph asking all fans to unite which for me hit the nail on the head; we should be lucky that we have an owner that deeply cares about his team.
Game weekend, could the team start to make a few steps forward on ice? First opponents were Glasgow Clan, the team if my auld man was still alive: would have a very soft spot for. The game started in the worst possible fashion, Steelers 2-0 down after just eight and half minutes play: the first from Craig Peacock on a break that caught out the home side and the second after Tommy Fleetwood had lost the puck and Scott Pitt fired home from the open high slot. But Steelers got themselves back just after the 10 minute mark, a turnover saw skipper Jonathan Phillips have an initial shot saved by Joel Rumpel yet the captain teed up linemate Chris Lawrence from the rebound to reduce the arrears.
Both sides then traded opportunities with both Rumpel and Jackson Whistle being called upon to make a few saves to ensure the game stayed close. Towards the end of that middle period, Matheson was in the box for a tripping minor and Clan scored a third. After fluffing a chance seconds earlier, Peacock scored his second on the night with a well executed tip in front. Yet Steelers didn’t cave in, and got back within one again at 38:49 when Josh McFadden scored a nice wrist shot which lit the lamp. A well placed effort from the defenceman. Could Steelers find a game-tying goal? Unfortunately not as Clan secured the deal with 27 seconds left in the game when Scott Tanski scored an empty netter which led to a bit of kerfuffle afterwards. Final score, 2-4. An improvement of sorts but still a long way to go.
It was also nice to see Zack Fitzgerald get a warm reception before and after the game, the popular American doffing his helmet to the Steelers support all around the Arena as he skated off at the conclusion. A classy touch by Zack, and left a few of us thinking if only we still had him…
Fitzy and yours truly at Puck Aid 2018
Sunday and the long bus trip up to Kirkcaldy to face the Flyers, a team that we had scraped past at home earlier in the campaign. It started off well, Josh Pitt (aka Tommy Fleetwood) with his team leading 6th goal of the season on the game’s first powerplay and it remained that way at the end of the first. Flyers equalised in the early stages of the middle period, Joe Basaraba with his first of the game and then as the home team continued to turn the screw, they added a second through the league’s top scorer Evan Bloodoff as Steelers’ Tanner Eberle sat out a tripping minor. Steelers edged the final period in terms of shots on goal, 10 to 9, but couldn’t convert the chances that came their way and goals from Basaraba (again) and an empty netter from Carlo Finucci secured the 4-1 win for the home side and a blank weekend for the Steelers.
Worse news was to follow for the fans as both Manchester and Milton Keynes won convincingly against Glasgow and Nottingham respectively. Those results, coupled with the loss in Fife, was enough to send the Steelers to an unwanted bottom place ranking. As Yazz and the Plastic Population said many moons ago, “The Only Way Is Up” and to be honest it can’t get any much worse. The roster does have quality in it, it’s just shorn of confidence at the moment and just needs the right man in to steer them to calmer waters. Thompson’s successor, whoever it might be, has to be the right man to do just that. Steelers might be the rest of the EIHL butt of jokes at the moment, but there’s a wounded animal out there just waiting to snap and snarl their revenge. It’ll come good, just be patient.
Thanks for reading..