TOM BARRASSO hopes his Sheffield Steelers team can use the positive experience gained from a rare four-point weekend in order to sustain their push for an Elite League play-off spot.
Wins over Nottingham Panthers and Coventry Blaze ensured the Steelers remain in the top eight play-off positions ahead of a weekend that pits them against the same two opponents, both on the road.
On each night, Barrasso saw plenty to admire, while also highlighting areas where his players need to improve as they head into the final weeks of the regular campaign in which they have 13 games to ensure they make the post-season.
“Our team played two really solid games this weekend – on the downside we know we’ve got to do this for the next seven weeks in order to get where we want to – but it was a good learning experience for us,” said head coach Barrasso, who is yet to commit to return to the club next season.
The 53-year-old still harbours hopes of coaching at a higher level – preferably back in the KHL where he has previously worked as an assistant and a goalkeeping coach between 2012 and 2016.
It’s an ambition that hasn’t changed since he clearly stated his aims on the day of his appointment back in October.
While the weekend brought a further plus in the successful return from injury of defenceman Josh McFadden – missing for three weeks with a hamstring injury – the Steelers look set to be without another key player in the shape of player-assistant coach Mark Matheson, who hobbled out of Saturday’s win at home to the Panthers and missed the trip to Coventry.
It’s not clear at this stage how long experienced defenceman Matheson will be out until further tests are carried out on his injury, but any lengthy absence would clearly be a considerable blow to the South Yorkshire club at the most vital part of the regular season.
Forward Robert Dowd, meanwhile, is nearing a return to action after missing the last six games after picking up an injury in the 6-0 home defeat to Glasgow Clan on January 26.
Getting the GB international back would be a significant boost for the Steelers with Dowd, despite injury problems, still contributing 30 points – including 17 goals – in 34 games.
We know we’ve got to do this for the next seven weeks in order to get where we want to – but it was a good learning experience for usSheffield Steelers’ head coach, Tom Barrasso