Video: O'Connor confident Sheffield Steelers can adapt quickly in order to progress

WHILE it will have been drilled into them all week by their coaches, Sheffield Steelers' players know they will have to adapt or die in the Continental Cup in Denmark this weekend.

Read More

Read More
All you need to know: Rough guide to Sheffield Steelers and the Continental Cup ...

Two seasons of competing in the Champions Hockey League taught most of the Steelers' current crop about the differences in pace and style of hockey they will come up against and, perhaps most importantly, the stricter officiating that seems to exist in the European game.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The kind of minor hooking and holding-type calls that may get missed or simply ignored by Elite League officials are more often than not seized upon by their European counterparts.

There's no doubt that British teams - including the Steelers - have closed the gap on their European rivals in recent years, Nottingham Panthers' success in reaching the knockout stages of this year's CHL being clear evidence of that.

And it is that knowledge and the self-confidence at being able to adapt quickly to the subtle differences on the continent that gives Steelers' defenceman Ben O'Connor belief that the club can reach the final round of the competition in January - where a CHL spot for 2018-19 is on offer.

"This weekend is not just about doing ourselves proud, it’s about doing the Elite League proud and UK hockey proud," said O'Connor.

"It is a different style and pace of hockey but the Elite League has changed a lot over the last couple of years and it definitely is more European with the speed and the puck possession, so I don’t personally think it will be that much of a difference."

Sheffield Steelers will be hoping to be making more celebrations in Denmark this weekend. Picture: Dean Woolley.

"We’ve had a taste of it recently in the CHL in the last two seasons, playing some of the big boys. It’s good to play, it picks your level up. Eight or nine years ago the speed over here was not as quick as it is today and when teams from here went over to Europe it was more about containing the opponents' speed, whereas now we’re the ones bringing the speed and setting the tone of the game."

O'Connor admitted that adjusting to European officialdom was "difficult" but believes the South Yorkshire club will quickly learn to adapt their style to avoid spending too much time in the penalty box.

"You’ve only got three games in three days so you’ve got to make sure you obey the rules - keep your sticks down and move your feet, that is the simple message," added the 28-year-old GB international. "Nothing after the whistle and really cut back."

And with the carrot of securing one available route back to the CHL - the other being by landing a sixth Elite League regular season trophy later this season - O'Connor knows there is no lack of motivation for Thompson's team from the moment the first puck drops on Friday afternoon against Minsk.

Sheffield Steelers' defenceman, Ben O'Connor. Picture: Dean Woolley

"We want to be back in the CHL playing against the top teams in Europe again," said O'Connor. "Nottingham did fantastically in it this season and we want to be back there doing the same thing. You want to play at the highest possible level that you can and, for us, that is in the CHL."

Sheffield Steelers will be hoping to be making more celebrations in Denmark this weekend. Picture: Dean Woolley.
Sheffield Steelers' defenceman, Ben O'Connor. Picture: Dean Woolley