Sheffield Steelers: back to the future

Flashback: Jody Lehman and Rod Sarich in action against Notitngham Panthers
Flashback: Jody Lehman and Rod Sarich in action against Notitngham Panthers
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THE SECRETS of success in previous Steeler campaigns are now being deployed to pull off another title coup.

That’s the hope of veteran Ashley Tait who sees similarities between the present squad (who are three points behind tonight’s opponents, league leaders Nottingham Panthers) and previous Sheffield teams.

As The Star reported yesterday, the essence of Ryan Finnerty’s team is a defensive strategy built on a solid wall wrapped around goaltender John DeCaro.

It is a philosophy that all skaters have bought into, including the forwards, says Tait, who played nearly 400 games for Panthers and is in his fifth season with Steelers .

“Defensively we have come together, one goal against in three games, shows that” he said.

“When we have won championships before it has been by keeping it tight at the back.

“That doesn’t just mean just Johnny and the D-men, it means all of us being responsible in our own end.

“Some of our offensive guys have sacrificed gaining points personally to ensure they do their job defensively.

“That sort of thing worked in the Jody Lehman era, (2005-9) it worked in the Ervins Mustukov year (2010-11) and it’s working now in the DeCaro time, as well.

“I think we have found that identity we were looking for, it seemed to come along when Simon Ferguson and Chris Frank joined us. Both have been excellent signings and are key reasons why we have won games. Frankie gives us an edge, he plays the first shift on the wing to set the tone and send a message.

“Simon has scored some huge goals, has over a point a game and has been a player for all occasions. He can play on any line, he has an offensive upside but can also muck it out with the best of them. He plays powerplay and kills penalties.”

Tait is relieved to be going to Nottingham tonight with the team in such form.

“I know we have won a string of games, we are seven unbeaten but we have won those games playing well.

“Goal scoring has been spread out in recent weeks. Yes, Jeff Legue leads the way (26 goals in 50 games) but Goertzen (19) Limpright (18) and myself (17) have all chipped in. To win a league title you need half a dozen 20 goal guys and by the year end we will have that. It also means teams can’t just try and shut one line down.

“If they go after the Legue line we have two more units that can hurt you.

n DeCaro has been named Elite League Player of the Week, the first two-time winner of the season, after posting two consecutive shut outs at Sheffield Arena.