IN a campaign already filled with numerous low points it is probably safe to say the Sheffield Steelers endured their lowest yet on Saturday night.
Having put in an encouraging performance in a midweek 3-2 defeat to defending champions and runaway leaders Cardiff Devils hopes were high ahead of a weekend that brought games against playoff-contending rivals Glasgow Clan and Manchester Storm.
Although the Steelers’ players went some way to redeeming themselves by picking up a point in a 5-4 overtime loss at Manchester on Sunday night it did not make up for the horror show that brought a 6-0 defeat on home ice against Glasgow.
In the aftermath of that defeat head coach Tom Barrasso could not hide his frustration in his post-match interviews, revealing that he had tolxd players that if they did not want to play the game the way he was coaching them then they would not play at all.
Barrasso clearly got some kind of response from his players at Manchester as, despite being without injured forwards Rob Dowd and Tom Zanoski, they went in 4-2 ahead after 40 minutes.
Evan McGrath cancelled out Chris Augur’s opener for the Storm before a second-period double from Anthony DeLuca made it 3-1 to the visitors. Dallas Ehrhardt made it a one-goal game again before Tanner Eberle made it 4-2 at 36.22.
But third-period strikes from Dane Byers and Chance Braid took the game into overtime, which came to an end when Ciaran Long grabbed the extra point for the hosts at 62.54.
The solitary point leaves the Steelers second-bottom, two points outside the play-off places.
On Saturday the Steelers – missing forward Jordan Owens but with defenceman Davey Phillips back after missing 18 games through injury – went in after the first period all-square after neither they nor the Clan could break the deadlock.
But three goals in as many minutes – Scott Pitt’s opener at 27.04 being followed by strikes from Mac Howlett and Vaclav Stupka – floored the hosts, who never recovered.
I don’t care how many bodies I need, but if (players) don’t want to do it the way I’m coaching them, then they do not have to be part of this group. They either buy in or they are done.Sheffield Steelers’ head coach, Tom Barrasso
Exposed netminder Jackson Whistle was pulled after Stupka’s second made it 4-0 with 10 minutes remaining, with replacement goalie Brad Day unable to stop further strikes from Jack Musil and Rasmus Bjerrum.
“We’ve trained for three months to play a certain kind of game and we should have a belief that when we play that type of game we’re a pretty competitive team,” said an irate Barrasso.
“And it should be very obvious that when we don’t play that type of game what you get is the mess that you saw (against Glasgow).
“So the message has been delivered that this selfishness that is in our game at times is going to be dealt with harshly.
“I don’t care how many bodies I need, but if (players) don’t want to do it the way I’m coaching them then they do not have to be part of this group.
“They either buy in or they are done. If I’m going to be unsuccessful as a coach it’s going to be doing it my way, not allowing somebody else to dictate the terms to me. So the terms will be dictated to the players and those that want to play that system will get on the ice, those that don’t can sit on the bench.”
Such a performance was understandably only going to enrage the Steelers head coach but, just under 24 hours later at Altrincham Ice Rink, Barrasso was left in a better mood post-game.
“We got away from our identity on Saturday night and I was a little disappointed with that, but I thought we responded pretty well,” he said.