ALL the talk of the past week will understandably have been about Sheffield Steelers’ back-to-back shutout wins over arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers.
But head coach Paul Thompson insists the turnaround in form for his team in what has been a hit-and-miss season so far goes back further.
And he is keen for his team not to waste the good work of a four-game unbeaten run when it comes to their forthcoming double header against Manchester Storm, the first instalment of which sees Ryan Finnerty’s team visit Sheffield Arena tonight (7pm).
The last time Steelers tasted defeat was almost two weeks ago when, 24 hours after losing 4-1 at defending champions Cardiff Devils, they went down 3-1 at home to Fife Flyers.
Thompson believes it is during that latter game that he began to see the shoots of recovery from a run of form that had threatened to cut his team adrift from the title-chasing pack.
“It’s not just about the two games against Nottingham. We’ve worked extremely hard over the last three weeks or so to get ourselves back to the level we expect ourselves to be playing at,” said Thompson, whose team sit fourth in the overall standings, two points clear of the Storm.
“Even against Fife, we were so dominant, but just ran into a red-hot goalie. Since then, though, we’ve beaten Dundee and had three straight shutouts. That shows that we are doing it right all over the ice – because we’ve got great attitude and great discipline.”
Steelers must do without key defenceman Zack Fitzgerald who is banned for one game after he got involved in fighting towards the end of Wednesday night’s 5-0 win in Nottingham.
But he leaves behind a team that is currently the meanest in the league, goaltender Ervins Mustukovs having set a new Elite League shutout record of 241 minutes and 28 seconds with the win at the National Ice Centre.
“Manchester will be another big test for us over the two nights,” added Thompson. “But we feel we are skating better than at any point in the past couple of months and are a confident group right now.”
We are doing it right all over the ice – because we’ve got great attitude and great discipline.Sheffield Steelers’ head coach, Paul Thompson