PAUL THOMPSON has backed his Sheffield Steelers team to pull themselves out of their current defensive malaise.
After a promising start to the campaign, the Elite League defending champions have stuttered of late, defensive frailties being exposed all too often, losing three of their last six games.
The latest setback came in a 4-1 home defeat to Nottingham Panthers, 24 hours after they had been involved in a “crazy” shoot-out win at Braehead Clan, which saw the Steelers eventually prevail 9-8.
But while recent form has attracted the expected criticism from some fans, Steelers’ head coach Thompson – ahead of tonight’s Ice Sheffield clash with Cardiff Devils (7.30pm) is confident his team will get things right sooner rather than later.
“It was a crazy night in Braehead on Saturday – team defence went out of the window for both of us,” admitted Thompson.
“But we know where we’re going wrong and we know where we need to change things. It’s a case of drumming it home in practice and during matches.”
After conceding just 20 goals in the first 10 games of he domestic campaign, the Steelers have shipped 43 in the last 10.
“I’ve every confidence this group can turn it around, 100 per cent,” added Thompson.
“It’s our individual decision-making that is costing us at times.
“We can’t keep pushing and pushing all the time because every mistake we make seems to end up with the puck in the back of our net.
“We’re making the wrong decisions – and that can sometimes be when the puck is 160ft from our net and at the other end of the ice.
“We know we can score as many goals as we like – if Saturday proves anything it was that – but we need to play with a little more caution at times and play a little bit smarter.”
Steelers’ defensive frailties haven’t been helped by their goaltending issues. First-choice stopper Tyler Plante is out injured for at least three more weeks, it is believed, with his replacement Marek Pinc enduring a baptism of fire in his first taste of top-flight UK hockey.
After shipping in six at Edinburgh Capitals, Pinc then let eight past him on his return to Scotland against Braehead on Saturday.
Back-up netminder Brad Day replaced him in Scotland and then started the game against Nottingham at home the following day.
He was then replaced by Pinc halfway through by which point Steelers were already 4-0 down. Pinc looked solid once back in between the pipes and is expected to start against Cardiff on Wednesday night.
“It’s not been ideal the goaltending situation but, hopefully, everything will settle down with that now,” said Thompson.
“We need everybody to start picking it up.
“We’ve got to get our shape and confidence back and, perhaps, start playing with a bit more maturity.”