Elite Series waiting game proves worthwhile for Sam Jones and Sheffield Steelers

GETTING to work on the ice with his new boss may have taken a lot longer than he had hoped, but Sheffield Steelers’ defenceman Sam Jones is enjoying life under Aaron Fox.

Steelers' Sam Jones, right. Picture courtesy of Dean Woolley.

The 23-year-old has already benefitted on a personal level from moving to the South Yorkshire club with his performances in the ongoing Elite Series having helped earn him a place in the Great Britain squad for next month’s World Championships.

Jones, picked second by Fox in the Brit-Draft ahead of the Elite Series, initially signed last summer in a switch from Elite League rivals Fife Flyers.

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But a chance to debut for his new employers was scuppered when the 2020-21 season was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It meant he had to wait until March before stepping out on the ice with his new club and new head coach as part of the Steelers’ four-day training camp for the Elite Series.

And everything that has happened since has convinced him he made the right choice when approached by Fox last summer.

“It’s been really good so far,” said Jones, who has registered two goals and two assists as the Steelers topped the group standings. “His systems are very easy to play – it’s a very direct, very fast pace of hockey and you always know where your guy will be.

“He’s on top of all the video and everything like that – you have everything that you need but, more importantly, no more than you need, it’s that perfect balance of not having information overload. It’s been a really good start so far.”

ON TARGET: Sam Jones, centre, celebrateshis goal in Sunday night's 5-3 win over Manchester by Sheffield Steelers. Picture: Dean Woolley.

For details and how to pay to watch tonight’s Storm v Steelers game via live stream go HERE

The Steelers’ continue their quest to win the Elite Series when, as top seeds, they take on Manchester Storm in the first leg of the play-off semi-final tonight.

It was honours even between Steelers and Storm during the group phase, with each picking up two wins apiece.

Steelers were already assured of being No 1 seeds in the playoffs having finished top of the group on Saturday, but their 5-3 win over Manchester 24 hours later meant that Ryan Finnerty’s team then finished bottom of the standings.

GET THE BALANCE RIGHT: Sam Jones hasbeen impressed with Steelers' head coach, Aaron Fox. Picture: Dean Woolley

Fox remains hopeful his first-choice netminder John Muse -–out injured since halfway through the opening night game against Nottingham Panthers – could return for the first leg, but stressed he would not rush him back too early and risk a recurrence of his injury.

“There’s still hope that we’re tracking John Muse here to find a way to get him in our line-up this week,” said Fox. “There’s no guarantee, we’ve had a couple of positive days, so we’ll just have to see how things go on Tuesday morning.

“We don’t want to put him in a precarious situation but, again, if he feels like he can do a job then, from my point of view, he’ll get the net when he gives me that head nod.

“I’ve just got to trust what he says, what his body is telling him - he’s the one that is driving the boat here.”

Rival coach Finnerty believes the two teams match up well against one another and acknowledges that goaltending will prove to be the decisive factor. He has been impressed with the way the Steelers’ two back-ups – Ben Churchfield and Curtis Warburton – have performed.

“You can take Sunday night out of the equation, I think, because they had a few guys sitting out, we had a few missing but those other three games have been very close.

“We match up pretty well against them, obviously they have got a pretty good Brit Pack there when you slide (Liam) Kirk into that mix and (Brendan) Connolly - obviously made that element of their “Personally it’s going to come down to goaltending. Both of them (Warburton and Churchfield) have done a really good job. Everyone has tried to get in front of them and take their eyes away from them, but they’ve done so well, I don’t think it is necessarily a talking point anymore.”

For details and how to pay to watch tonight’s Storm v Steelers game via live stream go HERE

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