Last week wasn’t the best one for the Steelers as the team slipped out of the last eight race; and with a testing week ahead then it could conceivably go from bad to worse. However, the Steelers seem to find something in their DNA that pulls them back from the brink and cheer things up even when the chips seem to be down. This week just gone; was a typical one of those.
After the loss in Manchester, Steelers were back on the road on Wednesday and live on FreeSports for a trip to the Spectrum and their latest clash with the Guildford Flames who are coached by former Steeler Paul Dixon. With Robert Dowd and Croatian new signing Tom Zanoški still on the sidelines, it was again a reshuffle of the pack for Tom Barrasso’s men. Not many people gave them a chance against a Flames side that are very good on home ice.
Steelers ripped up the form book and skated away with a superb 2-1 road win, thanks to goals from birthday boy Eric Neiley and a superb snipe from Anthony DeLuca. However the win was backstopped superbly by an inspired Jackson Whistle. The GB internationalist turned away 37 shots as he thwarted the home side time and time again. It’s safe to say that Whistle has been in great form, excuse the Clan loss when the whole team failed to deliver as one, since Matt Climie departed the scene. He’s certainly starting to show why he is so highly rated. That said, some of the early season losses couldn’t be blamed on him either. He certainly has made some losses look more respectable and less humiliating.
Ironically the Saturday game was against the same said Flames, and it was a tense but feisty affair as well. Steelers should have taken an early lead when the post denied the irrepressible Tanner Eberle on a shorthanded breakaway, but did do when Jonas Westerling banked one in from an acute angle off Chris Carrozzi’s back. DeLuca bagged his 8th goal of the season early in the second with a nice wraparound effort. Two powerplay blasts from Calle Ackered, and what a shot this guy has, sandwiched an Evan McGrath strike for the Steelers and left it hanging precariously into the third. Steelers then defended as if their lives were on it. Ryan Martinelli was providing solid defence with added physicality, Whistle was again solid and reliable in net whilst Eberle and DeLuca were the ultimate rink rats in offence.
Saturday’s performance was a proper blue collar performance, proper Steelers hockey and it left you feeling delighted as you left the Arena. People who had had miserable faces seven days previously, were heading home with smiles. We had been entertained, and seen something that had been a long time coming. If DeLuca and Eberle can be like this for the remainder of the season, I certainly would have no qualms about giving them a second season deal. They are infectious in their play, they cause panic in opposing defences and must generally be a pain in the arse to play against. The last import I can remember playing with a mentality like this might be Tylor Michel. Everyone loves a rink rat, remember Vezio Sacratini when he iced for Cardiff, well Steelers have a couple of them. I felt good for sure.
A tougher assignment on the Sunday, against the league leading Devils who have had a bit of a wobble recently and had their 11 point lead reduced to just three. That wobble looked certain to continue when Steelers rallied from a Charles Linglet strike to lead 3-1 with 24:06 played thanks to goals from Josh Pitt (his first in eight games), Ben O’Connor and yet another strike from McGrath. However the Devils rallied themselves and then added six unanswered of their own to take the game 7-3. Considering the Steelers matched their hosts on the shot count, this seems to be a bitter pill to swallow, and seemed to hinge on the Devils third which came after a review. But the Steelers can get back on their horse, with another massive weekend ahead.
In his post-game presser on Saturday with Peter Spencer, Barrasso confirmed that former Belfast and Edinburgh netminder Carsen Chubak is currently training with the club with a view to signing a deal until the end of the season as the hockey transfer deadline approaches. No Jim White in sight here I tell you. So is this a good move considering how good Whistle has been recently? Well, I think it is. Climie, for all his vast experience, just didn’t really deliver and to bring in “Chewie” would be a good call. The 29 year old was a dependable deputy for Stephen Murphy in 2014-15, and whilst he had struggling season 12 months later with the Capitals, the guy knows the league. He will be able to slot in if called upon. We certainly could do a lot worse that’s for sure.
Marvin Lee Aday summed it up perfectly: “Now don’t be sad, ’cause two out of three ain’t bad.” He wasn’t wrong!