WHILE most people will have written off his side’s Champions Hockey League chances, Sheffield Steelers’ head coach Paul Thompson is adamant his team are still alive and kicking in the competition.
Defeats in their opening two Group P games to Sweden’s HV71 Jonkoping and Austria’s Red Bull Salzburg have left Steelers’ hopes of making it through to the knockout phase hanging by a thread.
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Tonight sees them welcome four-time Swedish champions HV71 to Sheffield Arena with Thompson bullish about his side’s chances of upsetting the odds and avenging last week’s 5-3 defeat in Scandinavia and registering their first-ever win in the competition, having lost all four games in their first appearance last season.
“People will probably read this and think I’m mad or something,” said Thompson. “But we can still get through to the next round if we win our next two games.
“Well, no, I’m not mad – I believe we have that ability to get a win this weekend.
“We’re at home and we showed that here last year against JYP and Frolunda that we could compete with these teams.”
The Steelers proved a good match for HV71 in their first meeting and were tied 3-3 with only 10 minutes to go before their more illustrious opponents’ class told in the latter stages.
An 8-1 thumping at the hands of Salzburg 48 hours later was a bitter blow and carried echoes of the 9-1 mauling they suffered at the hands of Frolunda Gothenburg in the competition last season, the highly-skilled Swedish side going on to win the event.
But Thompson says his players are fully aware they cannot afford to run into the same kind of penalty trouble that cost them six goals in their two previous games.
“It’s vastly important that we get a first win in this competition,” added Thompson, who will leave it as late as possible before making a decision on the fitness of talismanic forward Mathieu Roy, who picked up a foot injury during the defeat at HV71 and was absent for most of the Salzburg game.
“We know we’re up against it but we are confident coming into this weekend. We’re focused on what we need to do and we think we can come out of it positively.”