WITH two of their leading scorers on the injured list for the foreseeable future, Sheffield Steelers know they will require contributions from across their roster should they wish to maintain a serious challenge for the Elite League title over the next 10 weeks.
READ MORE - Shortage of bodies and star scorers poses few problems for Steelers
This weekend they got it in spades.
While centre John Armstrong isn’t expected to be ready to play again before the end of the regular season, there remains hope British forward Rob Dowd will be, at least if he can recover from the knee injury he sustained at last week’s Continental Cup Final in Belarus.
Both have made significant contributions in terms of points this season - a combined tally of 76, in fact, including 18 goals apiece.
Their absence - alongside that of suspended duo Andreas Jamtin and Zack Fitzgerald - was why head coach Paul Thompson was somewhat cautious about his team’s chances going into a weekend featuring a visit from Guildford Flames before Sunday night’s trip to perennial strugglers Edinburgh Capitals.
He needn’t have worried. In the end, the Steelers will be heading back down the A1 in the early hours of Monday morning having racked up 14 goals across the two nights, while conceding just four.
There were some notable contributions too, not least from 19-year-old Cole Shudra, who grabbed himself a memorable hat-trick in Sunday night’s resounding 7-1 win over Edinburgh.
Further goals came from Matt Marquardt (2), Mathieu Roy and Eric Neiley, as the Steelers rallied impressively after trailing 1-0 to the EIHL’s bottom club at the end of the first period.
Roy led the way the previous evening in front of a healthy Sheffield Arena crowd, scoring twice, with further efforts from Neiley, Levi Nelson, Andreas Valdix, Ben O’Connor and 18-year-old Liam Kirk ensuring a comfortable 7-3 win over Guildford.
It means the Steelers head into Saturday’s trip to Milton Keynes Lightning having won 10 of their last 11 games, much to the understandable delight of Thompson.
“We have had a good few weeks,” said Thompson. “We are a tired group and it was a quiet bus heading up to Edinburgh.
“At 1-0 down at the end of the first period after out shooting the Cap’s 20-5 I was hoping it wasn’t going to be one of those nights. But we were always in control and, once we scored our first, there was only going to be one winner.
“What a game for young Cole, we think it was a hat-trick, although there was some confusion over one of the goals.
“He was worked hard and earned his chance. It was never going to be a quick fix with the apprentices but we can see how they are all coming on. I’m pleased for Cole, as we were for Liam yesterday."