HEAD COACH Paul Thompson was left with a clear sense of frustration after seeing his Sheffield Steelers team settle for third in the Continental Cup Final.
Over the course of three games in as many days, the five-time Elite League champions acquitted themselves impressively, but were left to regret what they themselves admitted was a below-par performance on the opening night.
That 5-1 defeat against Kazakhstan’s Nomad Astana was to ultimately prove costly. They were able to bounce back and were unfortunate not to take anything out of their second game against hosts and eventual winners Yunost Minsk when, despite coming from behind three times, they were undone by a late goal to suffer an agonising 5-4 defeat.
Pride was salvaged when goals from Swedish duo Andreas Jamtin and Jonas Westerling gave them a 2-0 win over Ritten Sport on Sunday afternoon, enough to earn them the bronze medal.
“We are frustrated, very much so,” said Thompson. “The local media out here said to me that they felt that the top two teams playing here this weekend were not the ones who were going to finish first and second. But I said that was down to us on the Friday.
“We had no excuses, we came in early and were well prepared but we didn’t take our chances against Astana. We were a little sloppy on the penalty kill and we got a little flustered once we went from 2-0 to 3-0 down.
But I thought we were outstanding in the second game against Minsk - it was a play-off type game - and against Ritten I thought we were pretty much in control right the way through.”
Thompson admitted the loss of British forward Robert Dowd early on in Friday’s opener was a significant blow, as was losing defenceman Miika Franssila for part of the tournament.
The Steelers will head home today and, after a couple of days recovery, return to the ice on Thursday to prepare for Saturday’s home encounter with Guildford Flames.
The Flames lost 8-3 at leaders Cardiff Devils last night, meaning the Steelers get back into the EIHL title race 11 points adrift of the defending champions. There are 23 games remaining.
“Losing Dowdy was a big blow because he’s irreplaceable for us, absolutely irreplaceable,” added Thompson.
“So I think that put a bit of a downer on us on Friday, everyone was pretty low seeing him hobble around because they all knew the extent of the injury.
“But we kicked back well and I’m proud of all the boys for that. Yes, we’re disappointed that it is only a bronze but it is a bronze in the finals of a European competition and we have to be proud that we got here.”