Swindon Wildcats v Sheffield Steeldogs: Jason Hewitt looking for transitional Dogs to get smart and stay in the fight

WHEN you’re looking to snap a three-game losing streak, perhaps the worst place to be visiting is The Link Centre in Swindon.

That’s under normal circumstances. But when you add in the fact that it is Swindon Wildcats’ first home game of the regular season – a luxury denied them since the facility was flooded back in mid-September – it probably makes your visit there twice as hard.

Regardless, that is the challenge facing Sheffield Steeldogs today, who go into the game on the back of a 6-3 defeat to the Wildcats at Ice Sheffield last Sunday. Having been forced to play the majority of their season on the road so far, Aaron Nell’s team will be extra-keen to reward their fans’ patience.

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But, as frustrated as player-coach Jason Hewitt was by elements of Sunday’s loss – not least conceding three power play goals – he is buoyed by the belief that he has the players within the room to remain competitive against the kind of teams who expect to be challenging for honours this season.

BOUNCE BACK: Sheffield Steeldogs' player-coach, Jason Hewitt. Picture: RDG Media/SteeldogsBOUNCE BACK: Sheffield Steeldogs' player-coach, Jason Hewitt. Picture: RDG Media/Steeldogs
BOUNCE BACK: Sheffield Steeldogs' player-coach, Jason Hewitt. Picture: RDG Media/Steeldogs

That includes the Wildcats and Milton Keynes Lightning, who hammered the Steeldogs 9-3 just 24 hours before their defeat to Swindon.

While such opponents clearly aspire to lifting silverware this season, Hewitt admits he is in charge of a team in transition. The lack of a third import is also beginning to prove telling, he admits.

“When teams can load up it really makes it difficult,” said Hewitt. “For all the will in the world, all the effort – and I can’t fault anybody’s effort – it’s just a fact about our depth and quality.

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“We’ve got some really good players but sometimes when you need that guy who can take a game over, go and score a goal on his own – that’s the slight edge we’re missing.

“And that’s something I have to get used to as a coach because teams I’ve had in the past, I’ve always had the luxury of a lot of offence, so it’s also about me being more savvy. It’s an adjustment, it’s a transition.”

In both of last weekend’s games, the Steeldogs were comfortably trading blows with their opponents, only to see momentum swings on both nights when conceding goals quickly in succession. Against Swindon, the Steeldogs recovered from two goals down to make it 3-3 in the 48th minute, only to then concede two power play goals.

“For us, it’s just about making sure we stay in the fight, for 60 minutes,” added Hewitt.

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“That’s all I ask for. It’s simple stuff – stay in the fight, be prepared to battle and just be smarter.”

After Saturday’s trip to Wiltshire, the Steeldogs will return to South Yorkshire before completing a weekend on the road when they head to Raiders IHC on Sunday.

They will hope to avoid a repeat of the defeat they suffered in Romford back in November when they went down 5-3 to Sean Easton’s team.

That followed a 6-5 win in overtime against he same opponents the previous night at Ice Sheffield.