Things have certainly started to look rosier in the Sheffield Steelers garden recently. Results have started to pick up and there are definitive signs that the dark mist which had enveloped the club in the opening month, is starting to clear. As always, what you are about to read are my own views and opinions; and not that of the Sheffield Steelers themselves.
Well Tom Barrasso is wasting no time in reshaping the roster to what he wants to succeed. On Tuesday last week, Steelers announced they were parting the ways with Jiri Gula but bringing in experienced netminder Matt Climie who has played five times in “The Show” and has had experience in both the AHL and DEL. I personally view this transfer in the sense that Barrasso is not a fan of the all-Brit goalie tandem and is more an advocate of the import-local tandem instead which we have seen so many times.
I also believe that Gula was a bit unlucky to be the defenceman released. At the time of the departure, Steelers had eight defencemen on their roster, granted one (Jordan Griffin) was on a two-way NIHL deal with Sutton Sting, and only six spots to ice. Something, or someone had to be moved on and “George” was the one whom saw the exit. In my eyes he wasn’t the worst defenceman on the team, there a couple who haven’t really lit up the team with their performances. People who know me and how I think, know exactly whom I’m talking about here.
Steelers experienced new goalie Matt Climie
Climie comes into the team a bit behind the others in terms of match sharpness; considering he last featured in competitive action a month ago. However, once he is match ready then expect him to push Whistle hard for the starting spot. For all we know, Barrasso might decide to share the workload for one to ice one game then other ices the next. Whistle’s game can only improve with Climie in competition, in fact some goalies thrive in the pressure environment of having a fellow starter standard player in direct competition. However, the same signing isn’t probably the best news for Brad Day who now is in effect third choice. Barrasso at the moment looks to have all three in the roster, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if the Huddersfield born netminder moves on to pastures new before the season ends next year.
The results continue to improve and at the time of writing, Steelers are in the lofty heights of 7th place after being bottom only a number of weeks ago and looking marooned worse than Robinson Crusoe. The players are showing signs of really buying into what Barrasso wants from them, and responding with a work ethic that screams “We don’t give up.” to whoever is in opposition. This was perfectly illustrated in the Hallowe’en game at home to Coventry when they came back not once, not twice but three times from a losing position and come away with a maximum point haul. This is something that you wouldn’t have seen until Barrasso arrived.
The game itself was a credit to the Elite League, as it had end to end action and drama right until the very end when Steelers got the game winning goal 38 seconds into overtime. Ben Lake gave the Blaze a lead at 9:20, converting after a juicy Whistle rebound came out to him. Justin Buzzeo levelled a minute later with a well taken breakaway effort which exuded confidence. Blaze went back in front in the opening minutes of the second period with a superb effort from Norwegian defenceman Nicolai Bryhnisveen which was that good so much that it belonged in the NHL from a player such as a Patrick Kane or Taylor Hall. Yet Steelers bounced back, and Aaron Johnson blasted them level with a slapshot from inside the left circle.
Kelin Ainsworth then put the Blaze ahead again 35 seconds after that Johnson strike and it looked bleak for the Steelers when Jake Hansen added a fourth for the visitors to give them a two goal advantage with just one period left. Yet Blaze hadn’t counted on the newly found resolve in Barrasso’s Steelers as the home side dominated that third period; Steelers outshooting them 15-5. Sheer persistence saw Johnson scramble home his second and the Steelers third, and then it became wave after wave.
Then with just 1:28 left, Kevin Noble was called for a needless interference penalty which he could have avoided. Steelers cranked it up and with just 10 seconds to go, Mark Matheson jammed home the equaliser. The home crowd went bananas. Still there was time for more drama, the prodigal son Ben O’Connor intercepting a Blaze cross-ice pass then rounding the advancing Miroslav Koprivà to fire into the vacant net. Not good for the heart rate but one of the most entertaining EIHL games in recent years.
Saturday night and could Omar Pacha break his Steelers duck at the 27th time of asking? Well, the answer was an emphatic no as the resurgent home side controlled the game from start to finish and blanked the visiting Stars 4-0 to hand Whistle his first Steelers shutout as well as record their third win on the spin and fourth in a row on home ice. Goals from Buzzeo, a shorthanded effort from Jonas Westerling, another Pitt goal and a well rewarded effort for skipper Jonathan Phillips did the trick. Granted Steelers have played 17 games (only the Panthers have played more) but slowly, they’re going through the gears and climbing that table. Suddenly, thoughts of finishing in the top four don’t seem too distant and under Barrasso Steelers seem to have found their identity again and that winning habit. Smiles are definitely back on the players’ faces and in the crowd too.
To quote the guys below:
“Bring me sunshine in your smile; bring me laughter all the while,
In this world where we live; there should be more happiness,
So much joy you can give; to each brand new bright tomorrow
Make me happy through the years; never bring me any tears
Let your arms be as warm as the sun from up above
Bring me fun, bring me sunshine, bring me love.”