ZACK FITZGERALD is convinced Sheffield Steelers’ “mental toughness” can only boost their chances of Champions Hockey League success this weekend.
In their second campaign in Europe’s elite competition, the South Yorkshire club came off second-best when travelling to Group P rivals HV71 Jonkoping and Red Bull Salzburg last week.
Four-time Swedish champions HV71 visit Sheffield Arena tomorrow night with Paul Thompson’s team determined to register the club’s first-ever win in the competition, something they are confident of doing having caused their rivals plenty of problems in last week’s keenly-fought 5-3 loss at the Kinnarps Arena.
“The fact we were able to take them so close gives us a lot of belief going into this second match-up with them,” said defenceman Fitzgerald, now in his second year with the Elite League champions.
“Any time you can compete with a top team from Sweden it is going to give you a lift.
“We had a little bit of a slow start but guys then began to find their legs and we got better as the game went on – we were right there with them.
“We’ve learned a lot about each other in a short space of time, especially when things get tough in these CHL games.
“That is really where the mental toughness comes in and where you learn about guys and how much they really want to play for each other.”
We’ve learned a lot about each other in a short space of time, especially when things get tough in these CHL games.Sheffield Steelers’ Zack Fitzgerald
Despite a tough opening to their second CHL campaign, Fitzgerald has been impressed by the influx of new faces to the Steelers’ roster and how they have quickly settled in with their new team-mates.
“There’s a good feeling in that room,” added Fitzgerald. “We all get along and I couldn’t be happier with the new guys and their attitudes and how they are approaching being here at the club.
“I think our core is really good and we really mesh together very well, Obviously there’s a little bit of a learning curve when it comes to getting on the ice and how lines work together and who you’re D-partners are.
“But it’s been a great start in that respect.”