Belfast Giants v Sheffield Steelers: Selection headache welcomed by head coach Thompson

Matt Marquardt is in contention for his first competitive start for Sheffield Steelers against Belfast Giants this weekend. Picture: Dean Woolley.
Matt Marquardt is in contention for his first competitive start for Sheffield Steelers against Belfast Giants this weekend. Picture: Dean Woolley.
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PAUL THOMPSON admits he will be forced into a tough decision this weekend as he prepares to leave one of Sheffield Steelers’ imports out after declaring a fully-fit roster.

Defenceman Zack Fitzgerald and forward Matt Marquardt are both in contention for a return to the Steelers line up for the Elite League double-header against Belfast Giants.

If he gets the nod, it will be a competitive debut for 30-year-old former Coventry Blaze winger Marquardt, who has been out since picking up an injury in the pre-season exhibition game against German side Nuremburg.

Other injury woes before last weekend saw Thompson bring in Finnish forward Juha Koivisto on a temporary deal meaning somebody will miss out tonight when the Steelers travel to Northern Ireland.

“We’ve got to be on our game if we want to take anything either night against Belfast this weekend and we’ve been on our game, so we’re a confident bunch right now,” said Thompson.

“And that makes our decision to leave somebody out even harder because nobody deserves to be left out on merit.

“Matt and Zack have been given the all-clear by the medical team and trained with us Thursday and Friday.

“It gives us a slight headache in terms of who to leave out – we’re not looking to move anybody on – it’s just that one of our players is going to be disappointed.”

After tonight’s game, the Steelers face a tough travel schedule when they return home tomorrow morning ahead of a rematch with the Giants at Sheffield Arena (5pm).

Steelers’ captain Jonathan Phillips said the players had learned their lesson in games against Nottingham Panthers and Cardiff Devils in recent weeks, after slow starts had left them in trouble, with the defending league champions winning 4-3 in overtime in South Yorkshire last weekend.

Captain Jonathan Phillips believes the Sheffield Steelers have learned their lesson from getting off to poor starts in games. 
Picture: Dean Woolley

Captain Jonathan Phillips believes the Sheffield Steelers have learned their lesson from getting off to poor starts in games. Picture: Dean Woolley

“After the Cardiff game and the Nottingham game the week before we weren’t pleased with the way we started those two games,” said Phillips. “Since then our starts have proved the key against Guildford and Dundee.

“We’ve almost killed them off in that opening period and then just kept playing our way.

“We can’t afford to give up points, especially at home.”

We’ve got to be on our game if we want to take anything either night against Belfast this weekend and we’ve been on our game, so we’re a confident bunch right now

Sheffield Steelers’ head coach, Paul Thompson.
Sheffield Steelers' head coach, Paul Thompson

Sheffield Steelers' head coach, Paul Thompson