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Changes in pipeline as Sheffield Steelers reach ‘very low point’

OPENING GAMBIT: Defenceman Jiri Gula, bottom left, puts ShefFuield Steelers ahead against Manchester Storm. Picture: Dean Woolley.
OPENING GAMBIT: Defenceman Jiri Gula, bottom left, puts ShefFuield Steelers ahead against Manchester Storm. Picture: Dean Woolley.
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EVEN BEFORE Sunday night’s trip to Guildford Flames, head coach Paul Thompson had revealed he was considering making changes to his misfiring Sheffield Steelers roster.

His remarks – just three weeks into the season – came in the aftermath of a 3-2 Challenge Cup Group A defeat at home to Manchester Storm in a shoot-out.

What happened in Surrey last night will presumably have done little to change his mind.

Out-shot and convincingly beaten 5-1 by Paul Dixon’s side will have done little for the mood on the Steelers’ bus on the way back up the M1.

Thompson and his players have until Saturday to come up with a solution to their curent malaise when they head across the Pennines to take on Manchester for a second Cup group encounter. The following night, double league champions the Cardiff Devils – who thrashed Milton Keynes Lightning 9-1 in the Cup lon Sunday – make the first of three regular-season visits to South Yorkshire.

“We’re looking at it, we have to – we’re six weeks in now and, offensively, we’re not getting it done,” said Thompson, when asked on Saturday whether changes so early in the season were an option. In Guildford, the Steelers – again missing key forward Robert Dowd – were chasing the game from early on in the first period after Evan Janssen put the Flames ahead.

That lead was doubled just before the halfway mark through Kruise Reddick, with Calle Ackered’s 31st-minute strike making it 3-0 before Ian Watters added a fourth at 38.18.

What was already a difficult night for the Steelers got even worse at 51.59 when Reddick added a power play marker. Consolation came by way of a Justin Buzzeo power play effort at 55.06.

“I’m embarrassed by the performance – I don’t think I have too add anything more than that,” said Thompson before leaving on the coach with his players from Guildford.

“We are of course not where we want to be right now and this is a very low point. We gave our fans nothing to cheer about yet they didn’t stop cheering for us all night. I feel for them.

Paul Thompson: Threatening changes after a weekend of woe for Sheffield Steelers.

Paul Thompson: Threatening changes after a weekend of woe for Sheffield Steelers.

“Out of adversity you see the character and I want to see our character come through. We are all in this together, my self and the players.”

On Saturday, the Steelers twice took the lead, first through Jiri Gula and then Evan McGrath. But replies from Luke Moffat – in the 40th minute following a dreadful giveaway in the Steelers’ own zone - and Ciaran Long, left all alone in front of goal, took the game into overtime. When no goals could be found in an often frantic five minutes of 3-on-3, a shoot-out ensured with saw Storm’s Rob Linsmayer effort proving enough as Steelers missed all five of their attempts.

We are of course not where we want to be right now and this is a very low point. We gave our fans nothing to cheer about

Paul Thompson
Rob Linsmayer fires the win-clinching penalty shot past Sheffield Steelers' Jackson Whistle at Sheffield Arena on Saturday night. Picture: Dean Woolley.

Rob Linsmayer fires the win-clinching penalty shot past Sheffield Steelers' Jackson Whistle at Sheffield Arena on Saturday night. Picture: Dean Woolley.