Sheffield Steelers down but far from out, insists coach Paul Thompson

DOWN BUT FAR FROM OUT: Ben O'Connor collides with the boards under pressure against Fife Flyers in Sunday night's 3-1 defeat. Picture: Dean Woolley.
DOWN BUT FAR FROM OUT: Ben O'Connor collides with the boards under pressure against Fife Flyers in Sunday night's 3-1 defeat. Picture: Dean Woolley.
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SHEFFIELD STEELERS’ head coach Paul Thompson has vowed to stop the rot after his team endured a miserable weekend in the race for the Elite League title.

Given their woeful Erhardt Conference form this season, a 4-1 defeat at defending champions Cardiff Devils on Saturday night was perhaps expected in many quarters, Ice Arena Wales rarely being a happy hunting ground for the South Yorkshire club.

But what followed just under 24 hours later on home ice at Sheffield Arena was somewhat more of a surprise with Thompson’s misfiring players suffering a 3-1 defeat to Fife Flyers.

No disrespect to the team from Kirkcaldy, but the Steelers should be taking two points from such games, but, as Thompson explained afterwards, when a team is as low on confidence as his seemingly are, nothing can or should be taken for granted.

“We had numerous powerplay chances, 5-on-3 chances, but you can just see there is zero confidence,” said a frustrated Thompson, who acknowledged the criticism currently coming his and his team’s way from supporters.

“We should be talking about a 4-2 or a 5-2 win (against Fife), but it just didn’t happen for us. We’re not getting too much luck right now, but you’ve got to make your own luck.

“We’ve got a low group in there right now, but we’ve got to pick it up and we’ve got to go again.

“So it has made for a really tough weekend. But we can’t run away and hide from it and fingers are going to be pointed here and there and at me, but I’ve just got to go and control what I can control.

“We’re going through a tough spell and we’ve got to come back out of it. We’ve got to look at our whole team and where in particular we’ve got to get better.

“Every team is going to go through tough spells – I think Nottingham have just lost five or six on the bounce – and we know we need to make adjustments and we know we need to add to our group.

HELLO AGAIN: Zack Fitzgerald takes a tumble on Sunday night against Fife Flyers on a weekend which saw him return to action after three weeks out. Picture: Dean Woolley.

HELLO AGAIN: Zack Fitzgerald takes a tumble on Sunday night against Fife Flyers on a weekend which saw him return to action after three weeks out. Picture: Dean Woolley.

“It is all doom and gloom for some people at the moment, but I’m not a doom and gloom merchant – all I’m looking to do is go and fix it.”

For a team low on confidence like the Steelers, perhaps facing a Fife side heading south on the back of a five-game unbeaten run was not the best potential cure.

It started well for the hosts when defenceman Zack Fitzgerald set up Mathieu Roy for the opening goal at 11.42.

But the game changed in the latter stages of the second period when Fife pulled themselves level through Shayne Stockton’s powerplay strike at 36.58.

We’re going through a tough spell and we’ve got to come back out of it. We’ve got to look at our whole team and where in particular we’ve got to get better

Sheffield Steelers’ head coach, Paul Thompson.

Just 76 seconds had elapsed before the Steelers’ weekend took an irretrievable turn for the worse when the Flyers got themselves ahead – again on the powerplay – through Chase Schaber.

Try as they might, the Steelers put their visitors under intense pressure in the third as they strived to salvage something from the game, but they found Fife in resolute mood – Charlie Mosey applying the killer blow in the final minute with an empty-net finish.

On Saturday, the Devils were fully deserving of their 4-1 win, a result which moved them top of the overall standings – a position they retained thanks to a 6-4 home win over Braehead Clan last night.

Justin Faryna, returning after two weeks on the sidelines due to injury, put the Devils ahead after less than two minutes, ably assisted by Joey Haddad and Paul Crowder.

The hosts then extended their lead in the 14th minute with Crowder benefitting from good build-up work by Haddad and Faryna.

It got worse for the Steelers early in the second period when star performer Faryna scored his second of the night at 21.21 before earning himself another assist when Haddad completed his own double five minutes later.

Cardiff Devils' players celebrate one of their four goals against Sheffield Steelers on Saturday night. Picture courtesy of Helen Brabon/EIHL.

Cardiff Devils' players celebrate one of their four goals against Sheffield Steelers on Saturday night. Picture courtesy of Helen Brabon/EIHL.

Andreas Jamtin pulled one back for the Steelers in the 34th minute, but it proved little more than a consolation for the suffering visitors, whose pointless return from the two days leaves them down in fifth place in the standings, six points adrift of leaders Cardiff.