THE INFLUENCE of Brendan Connolly on Sheffield Steelers’ ability to remain top of the Elite League standings has been hailed by head coach Aaron Fox.
When Fox signed the 34-year-old last summer – the Canadian having previously spent a season at both Belfast Giants and then Glasgow Clan – he knew he was getting a proven points provider, one combined with a willingness to mix it up physically, too.
So far, Connolly has lived up to his reputation, posting 38 points – including 18 goals – in just 32 games, making him the joint-top points scorer in the league with Nottingham Panthers’ Sam Herr.
He has also racked up 72 minutes in penalties, a side of his game Fox was comfortable with, no doubt confident of the pay-off on the offensive production he knew he would be getting alongside.
Heading into tonight’s home game against Guildford Flames (7pm), Connolly is looking to extend his point-scoring streak to a remarkable 22 games, maintaining his run with an assist in the New Year’s Day 3-2 defeat at home to Nottingham.
“He’s been really, really good for us,” said Fox. “He’s been really, really engaged, both physically and mentally this last stretch we’ve been on here. His discipline has been great. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone take as much abuse and not get calls as he does.
Some nights I can’t even believe what he goes through and doesn’t get calls on and then he’ll slash a guy back and take a soft penalty.Aaron Fox
“He will tell you himself he’s kind of put himself in this position at times but there is also a limit to what a guy can take and what’s crossed the line to not get a call.
“Some nights I can’t even believe what he goes through and doesn’t get calls on and then he’ll slash a guy back and take a soft penalty. He’s been excellent and a really, really good two-way player for us. In the face-off dot he’s been huge for us when John Armstrong was out recently. He was taking all my penalty kill face-offs in the D-zone – pretty much any important face-offs.”
After tonight’s visit from Paul Dixon’s team – who lost 2-1 at home to Manchester Storm on Thursday having won 4-3 in overtime in Altrincham the previous night – the Steelers hit the road to take on Zack Fitzgerald’s Glasgow, who snapped a seven-game league losing streak when beating Fife Flyers 5-1 on Tuesday and who they face-off against once more in Kirkcaldy tonight.