SHEFFIELD STEELERS’ head coach Doug Christiansen is convinced the Elite League is at its most competitive and believes so-called “shock” results should be considered a thing of the past.
No longer can the league’s bigger clubs such as Steelers, Nottingham Panthers, Coventry Blaze and Belfast Giants expect to ride roughshod over lesser lights such as Dundee, Fife and Edinburgh, who have all enjoyed success over their more monied counterparts this season.
Steelers themselves have come a cropper at the hands of Dundee and Fife, while defending champions Nottingham have also suffered – something that accounted for both clubs’ current mid-table mediocrity.
But Christiansen, who is preparing his team for this weekend’s double header against an improving Cardiff Devils side, believes such results should not be considered a surprise anymore.
“I think the so-called ‘shock’ defeat is a mindset that everybody needs to get away from,” said Christiansen who is glad to have influential forwards Jeff Legue and Robert Dowd back for tonight’s home encounter with Cardiff.
“It’s something that has happened to everybody, all of the big teams, at some point this season.
“That is because, in my view, the league is more competitive this year – the gap between top and bottom has narrowed even more than before and people need to get their heads around it.”
Christiansen remains hopeful that defenceman Dustin Kohn can join Legue and Dowd in returning from injury, if not for tonight then tomorrow’s return match against the Devils in South Wales.
As is the case for the Steelers, Hull Stingrays begin a run of seven games in 16 days when Nottingham Panthers visit East Yorkshire tonight.
Hull player-coach Sylvain Cloutier has been impressed with the way his depleted roster has coped with the loss of key players in recent weeks, particuarly as they have not lost in regulation since a 2-1 defeat to Steelers back on November 30. Since then they have taken eight points from five games, leaving them top of the Gardiner Conference standings.
Tonight, however, Cloutier will have Bobby Chamberlain back from Great Britain Under-20 duty, while Matty Davies and Sam Towner could also return after injury. And with Ukrainian defenceman Nikolai Ladygin also in the line-up having flown in this week for his second spell with the club, Cloutier admits the boost in numbers has come at just the right time.
“Having some guys back in the line-up is a massive boost this weekend, as the other guys have played a lot of minutes in the past few games,” said Clouter.
Hull follow-up tonight’s home encounter with a trip to Conference rivals Fife tomorrow.