Sheffield Steeldogs hope for return of key bodies to overcome opening weekend frustrations

OPENING WEEKEND may have brought its frustrations for Sheffield Steeldogs, but Tim Smith saw plenty of grounds for optimism for the long haul that will be the 2022-23 NIHL National campaign.
STAYING POSITIVE: Sheffield Steeldogs' defence Tim Smith (above left) in action during the 3-0 defeat at home to Swindon Wildcats last weekend. Picture courtesy of Peter Best/Steeldogs MediaSTAYING POSITIVE: Sheffield Steeldogs' defence Tim Smith (above left) in action during the 3-0 defeat at home to Swindon Wildcats last weekend. Picture courtesy of Peter Best/Steeldogs Media
STAYING POSITIVE: Sheffield Steeldogs' defence Tim Smith (above left) in action during the 3-0 defeat at home to Swindon Wildcats last weekend. Picture courtesy of Peter Best/Steeldogs Media

Leading 3-2 with less than a minute to go at Milton Keynes Lighting on Saturday, the Steeldogs came back up the M1 with just the one point after their hosts staged a stunning comeback to nick the extra point 4-3 in overtime.

Back on home ice, the Steeldogs were denied 3-0 by a Swindon Wildcats team still on a high from hammering newcomers Hull Seahawks the previous evening.

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However, as last season’s playoff and National Cup winners prepare to take on Raiders IHC in a double-header this weekend, longstanding defence lynchpin Smith is confident the frustrations will turn to celebrations sooner rather than later.

The return of some key bodies missing from last weekend - such as forwards Alex Graham, James Spurr and Vladislavs Vulkanovs - would go some way to helping those good times returning to the Steeldogs bench.

“Guys are playing awesome and you can’t ask anymore from them but we need that quality to help us move forward and win some games,” said Smith.

“We’re a blue collar team - we work hard, we work for each other and we’re a tight group but, yes, we get frustrated with each other from time to time.

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“We’ve come off that massive high of last season and, just right now, spirits might be a little low but we know that come this weekend, we’ll be aiming to put it right.”

UNDER SIEGE: Sheffield Steeldogs' netminder Dimitri Zimozdra and D Ben Morgan fend off a Swindon Wildcats attack. Picture courtesy of Peter Best/Steeldogs MediaUNDER SIEGE: Sheffield Steeldogs' netminder Dimitri Zimozdra and D Ben Morgan fend off a Swindon Wildcats attack. Picture courtesy of Peter Best/Steeldogs Media
UNDER SIEGE: Sheffield Steeldogs' netminder Dimitri Zimozdra and D Ben Morgan fend off a Swindon Wildcats attack. Picture courtesy of Peter Best/Steeldogs Media

While the Steeldogs host Raiders tonight (face-off 7.30pm), Leeds Knights will look to build on their opening weekend maximum points return when they host Peterborough Phantoms (6.30pm).

Like the Steeldogs heading south to London for a quick rematch with Raiders, the Knights will also have another showdown with the same opponents when they travel to Cambridgeshire.

Hull Seahawks will strive to put their opening weekend nightmare behind them - one which brought two heavy defeats to Swindon and Milton Keynes - when they face a double-header against Telford Tigers, the first clash being in Shropshire tonight before the two meet again in East Yorkshire tomorrow (5.30pm).