SHEFFIELD Steelers’ player-coach Ryan Finnerty says the days when former club Cardiff Devils were a soft touch on the road have long gone.
Gerad Adams brings his side to the Motorpoint Arena on Saturday night full of threat having already won on the road at Coventry Blaze and leaders Belfast Giants.
Finnerty spent 18 months in Cardiff before returning to the Steelers in May and, as he prepares to give a debut to new signing Luke Fulghum, knows the Devils still possess plenty of talent despite the summer loss of several key players, one of which was himself along with the likes of Craig Weller and Jon Pelle.
“The same as it is for teams going to Cardiff’s smaller rink, it is a big adjustment for Cardiff when they come to the bigger arenas,” he said. “But those days when they tended to struggle on the road are long gone and they have the mentality to win almost anywhere.
“They’ve lost some core players but they are still a good team, who are well coached and well drilled.”
Cardiff’s previous two visits to South Yorkshire have ended in defeat, losing out to the Steelers 5-3 on both occasions, one of those games coming in the Challenge Cup. But after a sticky start, Adams has steered his team to a run of just two defeats in eight games, with both those reverses - on home ice to Braehead and then Hull - seeing them secure a valuable point.
Finnerty – who also welcomes back captain Jonathan Phillips tonight – takes his team to Hull Stingrays on Sunday, where they will be facing a Sylvain Cloutier side returning from their Saturday night trip to leaders Belfast Giants.
Cloutier will be hoping his eighth-placed team can put further distance between themselves and the bottom two by snapping a two-game losing streak.
While the Steelers have put six past Hull on two occasions this season, a couple of hard-fought one-goal victories in the Challenge Cup against Cloutier’s team are, according to Finnerty, a fairer reflection of how difficult the East Yorkshire club can be to play against.
“I honestly don’t know anybody who likes playing Hull, particularly at their place,” said Finnerty.
“Every time you’ve played in Hull you come away feeling very tired, because they work so hard and therefore make you to work harder.
“They play the body and really come out hard at you. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best team in the league, if you take them too lightly they will hurt you.”
Finnerty confirmed on Fridaythat a deal had been agreed with a defenceman to come in and replace the injured Rod Sarich, who is out long term after undergoing surgery on a damaged kidney.
The Steelers boss expects his new man to be in the UK in time to face Belfast on Friday, December 9.