Tom Barrasso's 'passion' buoyed by Sheffield Steelers' early response

GRAND FINALE: Alex Guptill feeds the puck through the legs of Sheffield Steelers' netminder Jackson Whistle to make it 5-2 to Nottingham Panthers. Picture: Panthers Images.
GRAND FINALE: Alex Guptill feeds the puck through the legs of Sheffield Steelers' netminder Jackson Whistle to make it 5-2 to Nottingham Panthers. Picture: Panthers Images.
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HAVING enjoyed his first day off in a frantic first week as Sheffield Steelers’ new coach, Tom Barrasso will be back in at 7am today as he continues his bid to turn the club’s season around.

A 5-2 scoreline in Saturday night's Elite League defeat to arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers may look like a prime candidate for grim reading, but the Steelers’ head coach is one for analyzing the finer details.

And, reading between the lines, the 53-year-old American feels he has plenty to work with after his first game in charge, his new roster ticking most of the boxes he had asked them to before face-off at the National Ice Centre.

READ MORE - Report/Highlights/Reaction: Positive signs for Tom Barrasso despite opening night loss

In reality, Barrasso’s team were always likely to struggle against a Nottingham side determined to extend the Steelers’ miserable start to their latest Elite League campaign which had left them second-bottom in the overall standings.

Already missing Robert Dowd and Jordan Owens due to upper-body injuries, the names of fellow forwards Evan McGrath and Chris Lawrence were also absent from the teamsheet.

It saw Barrasso with no option but to come up with makeshift lines, with defencemen often playing regular forward shifts.

Steelers’ goals came from Mark Matheson and Stefan Della Rovere, but the Panthers took the points with strikes from Kevin Henderson, Tommy Hughes, Alex Guptill (2) and Tyler Biggs.

It can only be hoped some of those names on the injury list can be struck off in time for Wednesday night’s home encounter against Fife Flyers.

“When your third line is two defenceman and a 17-year-old it is a good challenge but I can’t ask more from the effort that they put forward,” said Barrasso.

OPENING NIGHT: Tom Barrasso gives instructions to his Sheffield Steelers' players on Saturday night. Picture: Panthers Images

OPENING NIGHT: Tom Barrasso gives instructions to his Sheffield Steelers' players on Saturday night. Picture: Panthers Images

“They played as hard as we could play and we were right in the game until late and that’s what we were hoping to be. I liked the effort and liked a lot of what I saw.

“The most important thing is that the players know I have the passion for what we are doing and that I am fully committed to it.”

Despite finally taking some time to get his off-ice life back in order yesterday, Barrasso was already looking ahead to the encounter with Fife, planning for an early start this morning.

“I’m looking forward to getting a day off actually, giving me a chance to get a little bit of my off-ice life in order after a crazy week,” he added. “Then I can make sure I get good meeting presentations prepared for the players on Monday and Tuesday and then we’ll get back to work and get ourselves even better prepared for Wednesday.”

FIGHTING BACK: Shefffield Steelers' players celebrate Mark Matheson's strike early in the third period to make it 2-1. Picture: Panthers Images.

FIGHTING BACK: Shefffield Steelers' players celebrate Mark Matheson's strike early in the third period to make it 2-1. Picture: Panthers Images.

For a man with two Stanley Cup titles on his cv, even the biggest rivalry in British ice hockey was unlikely to fluster him on Saturday night, so frantic had been his workload since his arrival in the UK on Tuesday night.

“I didn’t see anything other than the jerseys in front of me and what happened on the ice,” added Barrasso. “ The rest of the building, everything else, the other team even, was largely irrelevant.

“I’ve been with the players for just three days and purely focussing on remembering their names and trying to implement our systems and letting them get to know me for a bit, so it was very much focussed on us and not so much the opposition or where we were playing.”