Sheffield Steelers: Key duo Brien Diffley and Colton Saucerman reunited for Elite League treble defence

HAVING already convinced Colton Saucerman to return for a second season at Sheffield Steelers, head coach Aaron Fox was just as keen to bring back his defensive partner.

Once again, Fox’s powers of persuasion bore fruit, with Brien Diffley being confirmed for the 2024-25 season.

While Saucerman comfortably led the way in scoring for Steelers’ defencemen in last season’s treble-winning campaign, in Diffley he had the perfect player alongside him, operating more as a traditional stay-at-home defenceman.

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And while his points production was down as a result, the 29-year-old American’s contribution was no less important than anyone else on the team.

DIFFERENCE-MAKER: Brien Diffley had a telling impact on Sheffield Steelers' treble-winning 2024-25 Elite League season. Picture: Dean Woolley/Steelers Media.DIFFERENCE-MAKER: Brien Diffley had a telling impact on Sheffield Steelers' treble-winning 2024-25 Elite League season. Picture: Dean Woolley/Steelers Media.
DIFFERENCE-MAKER: Brien Diffley had a telling impact on Sheffield Steelers' treble-winning 2024-25 Elite League season. Picture: Dean Woolley/Steelers Media.

When he did score, it was often in big games, including the final and semi-final of the Challenge Cup, as well as in the play-off semi-final win against Guildford Flames.

“He’s an elite skating two way defenceman that makes the game look easy,” said Fox of the former Odense Bulldogs and Greenville Swamp Rabbits d-man. “Diff has got elite closing ability, he plays with a tight gap and has one of the best sticks we have had here.

“Offensively he’s great on his puck retrievals and in transition he can effortlessly join the rush. He’s a very unselfish player that will do whatever is needed to help the team have success.

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“Having both him and Sauce back gives us that option to start the year with a pair we know can play against any line in the league.”

TIMING: Brien Diffley had a knack for scoring vital goals in big games. Picture: Dean Woolley/Steelers Media.TIMING: Brien Diffley had a knack for scoring vital goals in big games. Picture: Dean Woolley/Steelers Media.
TIMING: Brien Diffley had a knack for scoring vital goals in big games. Picture: Dean Woolley/Steelers Media.

In all, Diffley scored five goals and 18 assists in his first season with the Steelers, where he had arrived on the back of a hearty recommendation from one of the club’s former head coaches, Paul Thompson.

The former GB boss had coached Diffley in 2022-23 for Odense Bulldogs.

It was the left-hander’s third year in Europe having previously spent two years in France.

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That came on the back of two years in the ECHL, where he iced for Wheeling Nailers and Manchester Monarchs before, in 2019-20, he switched to the Greenville Swamp Rabbits.

Those early years of his pro career came on the back of four years at Boston University, where he was coached by David Quinn, who went on to coach New York Rangers and San Jose Sharks and where Diffley’s path also crossed with forward Patrick Harper, who joined the Steelers in the second half of last season.

With a large core of last season’s roster returning, Diffley was keen to see if they could emulate their success last time around.

“There is a target on our backs this coming year, I think we all know that,” said Diffley. “It looks like every club has improved and that’s great for the league.

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“Having such a great core returning was also very important. We built a great bond and, after the year we had, I think we owed it to each other to try and do it again.

“It was great to be a part of such an outstanding team.”