Sheffield Steelers didn’t win the League last year by themselves - it was pretty much handed to them on a plate.
That’s the not particularly impartial view of Braehead Clan skipper Matt Keith, ahead of the friendly double-header between two clubs this weekend at iceSheffield.
“Sheffield finished ahead of us in the league last year and while it’s disappointing looking back, it’s a clean slate and time to move on” he said. “Especially when you consider it wasn’t Sheffield that beat us to win it, we gave it up in the last couple of weeks.”
Keith’s coach Ryan Finnerty shares the lingering disappointment but is buoyed by his belief that he now has an upgraded team.
“Last year was pretty tight all the way through” Finnerty says. “People say it was a defeat by Edinburgh Capitals that put us out of the race but they forget games like against Cardiff Devils when we were 0-4 down and stole a point (December’s 5-6 overtime loss.)
“On paper we are stronger this year, now it is a question of seeing how quickly we will gel.”
Clan and Steelers are playing each other partly as preparation for their joint venture into the European Champions League. Steelers have expressed how hard it is likely to be for them against crack Swedish and Finnish opposition.
But Finnerty said: “We have got stronger opposition against the number one seed Vaxjo Lakers. The main problem playing teams like this is the training time - they will have been together since July 1. That makes a huge difference. But we go in confidence, as we will to Sheffield, I’m sure.”
Finnerty is looking forward to pitting himself against opposing coach Paul Thompson. “I have got a lot of respect for him and he is a big reason why I am where I am.
“He has always supported and believed in me and promoted me behind the scenes” said the Clan boss.
“It was the right time to move away from Coventry and Britain for him and he will have learned and adapted a lot by coaching abroad.
“This year I expect his Sheffield team to show good depth and some very mobile defencemen.
“They are one of the teams that will always be a title contender.”
Finnerty has fond memories of former team-mates like Jonathan Phillips, Rod Sarich, Jason Hewitt and Rob Dowd. “There is a special bond when you play with guys. As for Mathieu Roy, he is one heck of a player, he scores goals in all the areas he goes to.”