Sheffield Steelers coach Aaron Fox switches focus to Elite League play-off success after Belfast Giants clinch league title

SHEFFIELD STEELERS’ head coach Aaron Fox says he is prepared for a tough, painful week ahead with his players – but is determined to quickly switch their focus towards a concerted push for the Elite League play-off title.

KILLER BLOW: Scott Conway scores the all-important shoot-out attempt to confirm Belfast Giants as Elite League champions. Picture: Dean Woolley.
KILLER BLOW: Scott Conway scores the all-important shoot-out attempt to confirm Belfast Giants as Elite League champions. Picture: Dean Woolley.

The Steelers lost out in their two-horse race for the regular season championship with Belfast Giants when Adam Keefe’s side won 2-1 after a shoot-out at the Utilita Arena on Sunday night. That, combined with a 3-1 win on Saturday, meant the Steelers could not longer catch them.

It was a painful experience for the home team and one which won’t be made any easier when they have to visit Northern Ireland for their final game of the regular season on Friday night, when their hosts will be in full party mode again as they celebrate their title success in front of a home crowd for the first time.

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But, once that night is over, the Steelers will turn their attentions to the one remaining trophy, one they last won in such dramatic fashion under Paul Thompson when beating Cardiff Devils in double-overtime back in 2017.

Before their trip across the North Sea, the Steelers also hit the road to Scotland on Wednesday night when they take on Glasgow Clan, but Fox is already looking further ahead, plotting a post-season success with a group of players he believes is capable of delivering.

“Yes, it’s a quick turnaround,” said Fox. “This will be our third Wednesday in a row. “We’ve got some tired bodies, a lot of energy went into that (the weekend), so we’ll take a day, get the players rested, skate maybe later in the day on Tuesday, maybe get a couple of fresh bodies in the line-up as well,

“We can probably give some guys some rest who might need it and our goal right now has got to be for that following weekend, it’s got to be about being ready to win a trophy

“We don’t want to go 0 for 3 here. I like our group, I like our roster in there and I feel like that is a group that should win a trophy this year and that’s got to be our focus.

Aaron Fox talks to his players during Sunday night's clash with Belfast Giants. Picture: Dean Woolley.

“This will be a little bit of a weird four or five days for us, I’m down, the guys are down but we’re going to have to flip the switch here and get back into work mode and be ready for that next weekend.”

On the disappointment of missing out on the regular season title, on home ice in such dramatic fashion, Fox added: “I loved our game, I thought we were way better than the previous night. The buy-in was there, the compete was there - hockey is a game of inches and you need a bit of puck luck and tonight we missed by a couple of inches in multiple spots and got zero puck luck.

“My message to the players before was to leave it all out there and I felt like we did that. But it’s never easy when you’re shooting for the league title and you’re officially eliminated from that - hat’s going to sting for a bit here and it leaves a bad taste in the mouth, obviously.”