Sheffield Steelers' Robert Dowd is proving the ideal leading man in 2023-24
“He’s a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve and is a passion player,” said the Steelers’ head coach. “He’s just one of those guys who brings it every single night.
“I know some people may feel like there were added expectations with the ‘C’, but there never was a concern for me there regarding Dowdy.”
So far, Dowd has risen to the ‘occasion’. Ahead of Wednesday night’s Challenge Cup clash at home to Manchester Storm, he has scored five goals in as many league and cup games.
In the league, he is joint-top scorer with four goals - the latest two coming in Sunday’s impressive 5-2 win at Coventry Blaze.
It comes as no surprise to Fox, who likes the positional versatility Dowd offers and is pleased with the way he is working alongside line-mates Marc-Olivier Vallerand and Mitchell Balmas. Between them the three have racked up 12 points.
“Pucks are going in for Dowdy right now, him and Vally and Balmas have been excellent and I think have got close to 12 points between the three of them in the four games so it's been a good combination.
“And I’ve played him up the middle too, he’s excellent below the hash marks there, defensively he gets stops and swarms very quickly which is what we’re looking for out of our centres and is part of the way we play D-zone.”
Fox expects a tough examination from Manchester on home ice.
Storm currently top the regular season league standings having dropped just the one point in four games, although it is Cup points that are on offer at the Utilita Arena with the Steelers looking to add to the two they won in a comprehensive 6-0 rout of hosts’ Nottingham Panthers 10 days ago.
“Manchester are playing very good hockey at the moment,” added Fox. “We’ve watched a little bit of tape on them this week from the two games that they didn’t play in Manchester as part of our pre-scout and they looked good.
“Stylistically, they are playing a similar game to how they played last year, I think they’ve done a good job of recruiting this summer and they’ve got a strong team.”
Fox believes his own team are also playing ‘good hockey’ too, their only defeat of the season coming in the 3-2 home loss in the league against Cardiff Devils.
Having been pushed into overtime by Coventry at home on the first night of the season, Fox was pleased with the way the Steelers were more dominant when they went into the SkyDome Arena on Sunday.
“We knew Coventry had played the night before up in Glasgow, so they would have had a tough bus trip back home,” added Fox. “They play three-line hockey and we felt like they’d probably be a little tired at the start of that game, so we wanted to jump on top of them early and we were able to get ourselves a 2-0 lead.
“Then the second period was definitely our best spell of the game and we took the game over there to make it 4-0.
“We let them sneak back into it in the third which wasn’t optimal but, at the end of the day, it was two pretty convincing points down there.”