DOUG CHRISTIANSEN refuses to throw in the towel over Sheffield Steelers’ Elite League title ambitions – believing a prosperous festive period can turn his team’s season around.
It’s been a somewhat inconsistent campaign so far by the South Yorkshire club, something evident again at the weekend when they twice came from behind at home to Cardiff Devils to win 4-3, only to then lose 5-1 in the return match in South Wales the following evening.
As the halfway point of the season arrives, it leaves them 13 points adrift of leaders Belfast Giants, albeit with a game in hand, as they prepare for their traditional Christmas double header against fierce rivals and defending champions Nottingham Panthers – themselves suffering from an inconsistent campaign and still reeling from Saturday night’s surprise 7-5 defeat at the hands of Hull Stingrays.
Belfast themselves, however, are on a roll, going into their festive double header against second-placed Braehead Clan – coached by former Steelers boss Ryan Finnerty – on the back of a five-game winning streak.
Given the way the season has gone so far, Christiansen may be forgiven for regretting making the switch from Belfast to South Yorkshire shortly after the end of the last season after Steelers had sacked Finnerty following two barren years.
But the 35-year-old American remains happy in his new surroundings and more determined than ever to engineer something of a revival from his charges.
“We can’t worry about what’s around us in the league, all we can do is take care of business ourselves and see what happens,” said Christiansen.
“It’s too early to concede anything yet – you look at Manchester City in the Premier League a couple of seasons when they won it in the last minute – crazy things can happen in sport.
“All we need to do is focus on being a 1+0 team each game – not getting ahead of ourselves and just take each game as it comes.”
One thing that has hampered the Steelers so far this campaign is their run of bad luck in terms of injuries. Christiansen has only been able to pick from a fully-fit roster four times this season, with key players Jeff Legue, Robert Dowd and Dustin Kohn all returning against Cardiff.
But the former Edinburgh coach refuses to use that as an excuse, believing his side are good enough to overcome that.
“I think before the weekend, we had played with a full line-up just twice in 31 games,” he said.
“We have not had the luck we would like in terms of injuries, but I believe we have still had enough quality in what we have had out there to still get more points than we have done.”