AS the saying goes, when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.
So it proved for Sheffield Steelers’ defenceman Ben O’Connor on Saturday afternoon when, some 40 or so miles outside of Cardiff, the call came on his mobile informing him that his wife had gone into labour.
O’Connor’s dash to attend the birth of his child left the Steelers with just four regular defencemen going into a game against defending Elite League champions Cardiff Devils in a building where they have habitually struggled to find joy.
That was particularly the case last season where they lost in three out of four league visits to Ice Arena Wales as well as going down to the hosts 3-2 in the Challenge Cup Final held there in March.
On Saturday night, it was an all-too-familiar one-goal defeat that saw them suffer yet another Conference defeat – their fifth in seven games.
While the Steelers’ four defencemen – occasionally boosted by teenager Cole Shudra – battled manfully, Steelers’ head coach Paul Thompson was left hoping afterwards that he can quickly find a replacement for recently-departed Finnish D-man Joonas Ronnberg.
A new arrival is unlikely before Wednesday’s home date with Dundee Stars, however.
“I thought the ‘D’ were excellent, I really did,” said Thompson. “Let’s hope we get Ben back for Wednesday and we get another import defenceman in as soon as possible.”
Given the late disruption to their plans – O’Connor’s wife gave birth to a baby girl – the last thing the Steelers needed was to be on the backfoot early on.
But, less than a minute in, that is exactly how they were, Andrew Hotham’s back-handed effort glancing in off of Sean Bentivoglio just 55 seconds in. Thankfully, a slick Steelers move brought a quick equaliser through Andreas Valdix just under four minutes later.
But by the end of the first period, the Steelers found themselves two goals adrift, powerplay markers from Hotham and Matt Pope putting the home side firmly in control.
A goalless second period followed and although the Steelers did manage to pull it back to 3-2 – Scott Aarssen blasting back in from the left-side – with only 31 seconds remaining on the clock it proved too little, too late.
You come down here knowing it is always going to be really hard, we were confident and we were playing well and we didn’t get the result tonight.Steelers’ head coach, Paul Thompson.