The Steelers get their ‘season’ underway tonight by taking on Nottingham Panthers on the opening day of the behind-closed-doors tournament, with a clash against Manchester Storm to follow tomorrow.
Head coach Aaron Fox has not had the normal luxury of a four-month close season to put together his roster but, according to Connolly, has spent the month or so he has had putting together a healthy, vibrant squad ready to go from the off.
“It’s been good this week,” said Connolly, who was released last week from his deal with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits in the ECHL in order to return to the Steelers’ fold.
“The import players that have come in are all excited to be playing hockey, a lot of them have either had some time off or have been playing in countries that have chosen to shut their seasons down.
“So I think everyone is excited to get back out there and be able to compete in games and play.
“Then there are the British guys – always good guys to be around, always great in the locker room.
“There are some exceptional players here that Foxy has brought together –it’s a really good mix.”
Connolly, who hopes to make it on the plane as part of the Great Britain squad competing at the World Championships in Latvia in May-June, proved a major force for the Steelers during the 2019-20 season, one which saw them end a 17-year wait for a Challenge Cup trophy and a campaign in which the 35-year-old veteran contributed 63 points, including 28 goals, in 61 appearances.
His time with the Swamp Rabbits has kept him in good shape and, despite the lack of game action for some of those around him in the past 12 months or so because of the coronavirus pandemic, he is confident everyone will soon be up to speed, at least based on what he has seen during practice.
“You can practice a million times but it just doesn’t have the same feel as a game, so it might take a few games,” he added.
“But, speaking for our team, a lot of our guys are ready to go, in great shape and will hit the ground running straight away.”
All the Elite Series games will be screened via live streams. For more details and the various packages available head HERE
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