EVAN McGRATH believes Sheffield Steelers are finally finding their swagger in the 2018-19 Elite League campaign – but insists over-confidence will not prove an issue.
The Steelers sent out a strong message to their rivals on Sunday night when a fully-deserved 4-2 home win brought an end to the 11-game unbeaten run of current EIHL leaders Belfast Giants.
It was a swift, positive response to a defeat by the same scoreline against the same opponents at the same venue 24 hours earlier and ensured Tom Barrasso’s team remain one of the league’s form teams by sealing what was an eighth win in their last 10 games.
It means the Steelers’ head coach boards a coach later this morning for a second trip of the season to Glasgow Clan with a confident group.
But while the feelgood factor among the Steelers’ players is fully understandable, there should be enough ‘old heads’ around the locker room to ensure it doesn’t become anything more than that, McGrath being one of them.
“We’re a pretty positive group right now,” said 32-year-old McGrath, who joined the Steelers in the summer.
“It is not always easy to put it all together when you have back-to-back games, but on Sunday it was great to see we could beat a team of that calibre.
“We were upset after losing the first game on Saturday but we knew we could play with them and it gave us that extra incentive the following night.
“We’re feeling confident at the moment and going into every game believing we can win.
“But we can’t get carried away because we are not even halfway through the season yet. We were talking about going eight and two in our last 10 games and how we need to try and replicate that in our next 10 games.”
The Steelers’ previous trip to Glasgow on November 16 proved a memorable one as they came back from going 4-0 down in just over 25 minutes to win 5-4 in overtime.
The Steelers’ ability to dominate the latter stages of that game and take the extra point was just one example, believes McGrath, of how the players’ conditioning has improved under Barrasso.
“He has pushed us to a new level in terms of our conditioning,” explained McGrath. “In a lot of games recently we have won them in the third period and teams are finding it difficult to stay with us because we just keep going at them. We are starting to see the benefits of all the hard work that we’ve put in off the ice.”
Defenceman Davey Phillips will not be part of the Steelers line-up after suffering a serious wrist injury during the second period of Sunday’s win over Belfast. The Steelers were dealt a further injury blow on Tuesday night when forward Eric Neiley was also ruled out after pickuing up an injury during the morning’s training session.
We can’t get carried away because we are not even halfway through the season yet. We were talking about going eight and two in our last 10 games and how we need to try and replicate that in our next 10 games.Sheffield Steelers’ Evan McGrath