COVENTRY BLAZE boss Paul Thompson expects his players to be leave Sheffield Arena tomorrow with ice packs strapped to various bruised parts of their anatomy.
He thinks Steelers’ coach Ryan Finnerty will have his side fired up for a big-hitting encounter at the House of Steel. But Thompson is also aware that Sheffield’s team physicality won’t be his only concern, as the team has speed and skills too, he says.
“Sheffield are the bench mark, they are last year’s champions and have four wins in five games already including victories over Belfast and Cardiff” said Thompson.
“I actually ‘signed’ Finner this summer, but couldn’t hold him when he was then offered Steelers’ coaching position. I love the way he plays and I guess he’s trying to get his whole team playing with the same hard-nose style. Finnerty is old school and we are all trying to recruit the type of guys he likes. He isn’t going to sign any softies, he will have done his home work and not only brought in good players but mentally strong ones as well.
“To beat Sheffield you will have to compete for 60 minutes and be prepared to come away from their rink with ice packs hanging off you as I can’t see a Finnerty team lying down and being walked over. You have to compete and prepare to battle first of all. Win that fight and then I hope we can win the hockey skills battle.
“I’m happy with my new signings; I like my side. But Steelers’ speed is incredible with Jeff Legue and Mike Ramsay. Their transition (defence to attack) with Rod Sarich and Steve Birnstill and their physicality with Neil Clark and Colt King can crush you. Then when you think you have handled all that they send out that old dog Ashley Tait and the best British rink rat Jason Hewitt.
“If we match their aggression and tenacity then we will hopefully take the points. Our start has been good though we haven’t played any of the top five yet. Time will tell.”