PAUL THOMPSON insisted he was proud of his Sheffield Steelers team, after they endured a baptism of fire in their first taste of life in the Champions Hockey League
The South Yorkshire club, who qualified for Europe’s premier competition as the UK’s Elite League 2014-15 champions, followed up Thursday night’s 9-1 defeat at last year’s runners-up Frolunda Indians with a 3-0 defeat at Finland’s JYP JYP Jyvaskyla.
But for a six-minute spell early in the third period against Frolunda when they conceded five goals, the Steelers would have come out of their debut game in Gothenburg with more credit.
Penalty trouble was the main reason behind their third period collapse, something they learned quickly from against Jyvaskyla when they didn’t incur their first until late in the second period. Typically it led to a powerplay goal for the hosts.
The breakthrough for the home side came at 6.42 when Joonas Nattinen capitalised on good build-up work by Joose Antonen and Mikko Luoma.
The Steelers were heavily outshot on the night as they were in Sweden, but the second goal against them didn’t arrive until 26.24 through Valtteri Hotakainen.
A third goal, from the stick of Tuomas Pihlman, came on the powerplay shortly shortly before end of the second with Steelers’ Tyler Mosienko in the penalty box on a hooking call.
Try as they might, the Steelers couldn’t find a way past goalender Tuomas Tarkki, who turned away 27 shots.
“It was a huge improvement,” said Thompson. “I’m very proud of the guys and thought we were very unlucky not to score and run them even closer.
“We always knew that these two games would be the two toughest our club have ever faced and I think we have come through them well.
“I know a 9-1 defeat is hard to explain as a positive but we played some incredible, spirited hockey for two periods against Frolunda and then fatigue took over in a final 20 minutes against a side that will go on and fight to win this competition.
“For a club that has only been together for two weeks and had seven or eight training sessions to be playing against clubs that have been together for over a month, I think there are a million more positives than negatives.
“I’m not disappointed with a single player. I see improvement every day and that was confirmed against Jyvaskyla.”
Thompson, who in the summer employed the club’s first strength and contioning coach in Danny Mawer, believes that appointment already started to bear fruit in only the second game.
“Our conditioning came through against JYP,” he added.
“We were determined in the final session to try and win the period. I went down to three lines and we came so close, we went hard with every player putting everything they had into it.
“Of course I’m disappointed we didn’t score here but I’m more disappointed for the players that they didn’t score because I thought their effort deserved a goal or two.
“We have to remember who we are playing over here and the quality and standard of the opposition.”
The Steelers have two more chances to test themselves against two teams considered to be among the best in Europe, starting with next Sunday’s visit from Jyvaskyla to Motorpoint Arena. Frolunda arrive in South Yorkshire on September 5.
“Already I can’t wait for next Sunday so we can have another go,” added Thompson.
“I’m excited with this group. Yes, there is a lot of work still to do but we have built a strong foundation in the week-long training camp and the four days here – things we can continue to build on ahead of the two remaining CHL games and the Elite League season that will follow.”