Aaron Fox praises key Sheffield Steelers defensive duo ahead of Nottingham Panthers double-header

SHEFFIELD STEELERS head coach Aaron Fox was delighted to see defenceman Jonas Liwing make a successful return to the ice at the weekend.

KEY COMPONENT: Jonas Liwing battles with former Steelers' forward Mathieu Roy earlier this season. Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley/EIHL.

The 36-year-old Swedish defenceman played a crucial role in his team’s 4-3 win at Manchester Storm, a result which kept the Steelers top of the Elite League standings going in to today’s clash with Nottingham Panthers.

The veteran returned to the ice after a three-month injury lay-off, his timing proving perfect as fellow defenceman Ben O’Connor was ruled out through injury for the trip to Altrincham.

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But Liwing appears to have come through his first game back, much to the delight of Fox.

BACK IN THE GAME: Defenceman Jonas Liwing returned to the Sheffield Steelers' line-up in Saturday's 4-3 win at Manchester. Picture courtesy of Mark Ferriss/EIHL.

“He kept the game pretty simple and it was great to see him back out there,” said Fox. “Three months is a long time for him to be out and it wasn’t a good one that he got.

“So taking those first two hits and officially winning a battle is important and it’s just about kind of building off that. He kept his shifts really short, played a really simple game, didn’t try to do too much, was positionally sound and just played a solid game.

"I had him paired with Aaron Brocklehurst again - I had them paired together at the beginning of the year and they work well."

Brocklehurst was also the subject of praise from his head coach, who labelled him a "workhorse" in helping the Steelers gain their first success of the season at Manchester at the fifth time of asking.

KEY MAN: Defenceman Aaron Brocklehurst priotects the net during Saturday's win at Manchester. Picture courtesy of Mark Ferriss/EIHL.

The 34-year-old Canadian had some injury problems of his own earlier in the season but is now seen as one of the Steelers' key components in their recent run of success.

"Brock was a workhorse for us again, he must have played 28-30 minutes at Manchester and was awesome for us," added Fox.

"He was playing at around 50 per cent for the first few two months, he literally couldn’t take a hit without having major problems. But now that he is healthy, he runs our first power play and is just a great two-way guy.

"He makes good decisions, skates real well and battles his ass off every single night. He’s very assured and has a calming influence on those around him."

Fox said fellow defencemen James Bettauer and Aaron Johnson are still "two-four weeks away" in their battle to recover from injury and, with Ben O'Connor missing out on Saturday night and a doubt for the double-header against Nottingham, Liwing and Brocklehurst look set to log up plenty of minutes over the coming weeks.