STEELERS coach Ryan Finnerty has paid tribute to the warrior instincts of his Sheffield side.
He was particularly impressed how they put themselves in harm’s way to defend shots on the penalty kill in the shut out victory at Coventry on Sunday - a sizable improvement considering they conceded five at home to Dundee Stars, the previous evening.
Finnerty said: “I think the way I want the Steelers to play was summed up in one shift in Coventry.
“We were on a 5-3 penalty kill, Blaze were trying to get back in the game. We were up against it, backs to the wall. If they score they are back in it, if we kill then it’s a huge kill and the momentum is with us, it demoralises them and sucks wind out of their sails. It was the way we killed, in 1.53 we blocked nine shots, that’s nine that didn’t get through to John DeCaro.
“Matt Stephenson and Mark Thomas were immense, all the (penalty) killers were.
“Stephenson must have blocked four himself; two smack-bang in the chest. He never flinched once, never showed that those shots hurt, he just stared the Blaze forwards right in the eye as if to say: ‘Is that all you have?’ It was impressive to watch” said Finnerty.
“It was total dedication to the job in hand. Just watching them gave you immense pride to have them as team mates. Here they were saying to Coventry - “not a chance are you scoring and getting back into this one.” Our bench were on their feet for the whole kill and once it was over we had the jump, we had momentum.
“The win was huge but the performance was our best all year, not only did we go into Coventry and win, we also out played and most importantly out worked the Blaze - this weekend was one when for me it started coming together. That kill, that 113 seconds was a huge part of our season to date.”
Steelers, enjoying an eight-match winning league streak, are in second place behind league leaders Belfast Giants, with three games in hand.