DARRELL HAY believes Sheffield Steelers’ players have set themselves a big challenge to maintain the quality performances already seen in the Champions Hockey League.
Tonight the Steelers entertain Swedish side Frolunda Indians in their final CHL encounter, hoping to fare better against a side who beat them 9-1 less than three weeks ago in Gothenburg.
While still registered as a player for 2015-16, Hay took up an opportunity in the summer to work as head coach Paul Thompson’s assistant at Sheffield Arena.
Hay got to see some ice time during Wednesday night’s 4-2 friendly win at Manchester Storm, but, in his new role, has been impressed by the efforts produced by the team in a short, yet tough debut CHL campaign.
“Playing these CHL games will help us be even better prepared for when the domestic season starts on Sunday,” said Hay.
“The whole group has improved in the past two weeks or so and have shown that they can compete against these teams and they have raised the bar really in terms of performance.
“And Paul and I are going to hold them accountable to that all season - they’ve set the bar now and shown what they can do and the effort and the passion that they can play with so whatever kind of game it is – a road game up in Edinburgh or Dundee – we’re going to expect the same kind of effort and commitment every night.”
Watch highlights of Steelers’ defeat to Frolunda HERE
In Frolunda, Hay believes the Steelers have played against one of the teams who could go on and win the CHL – going one better than the runners-up spot they achieved last season.
“I think Frolunda might be the favourites for the whole thing,” said Hay.
“They are a team that is going to come in here with a swagger, they are unbeaten and they’ll want to prove something with it being their first time in the UK.
It’s a great test for our club.
“We got into a little penalty trouble there when we played them over in Sweden. We’d only been skating for about a week – but we can make a lot of excuses if we want to but we’re not going to.
“We need to make sure we are five-on-five as much as possible against a team like Frolunda because if we don’t kill the penalties they are going to hurt you – they are one of the top teams in Europe.
“We are going to have our work cut out for us, but it’s something we’re all looking forward to.”
After tonight’s test against Frolunda, the Steelers turn their attention to their domestic campaign, although it is another three weeks before they can begin the defence of their regular season Elite League title.
Tomorrow’s trip to Cardiff Devils sees Thompson’s team begin their Challenge Cup campaign, against the team that beat them in last season’s final at Sheffield Arena.