SHEFFIELD STEELERS: ‘Tough’ Steelers won’t be bullied, insists Ryan Finnerty

Scuffle: Jason Hewitt has to cover up on the ice as Brad Leeb attacks him.   Picture: dean woolley
Scuffle: Jason Hewitt has to cover up on the ice as Brad Leeb attacks him. Picture: dean woolley
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RYAN FINNERTY accepts he doesn’t coach the scariest individual bruisers in the 2012-13 Elite League.

But he reckons there are signs of team toughness following last weekend’s games with muscle-laden Coventry Blaze.

Finnerty pointed to Matt Stephenson as a player who stepped up to the plate - something he will expect others to do when the League season starts on Saturday at home to Cardiff.

Stephenson twice fought heavyweight Benn Olson last Saturday, despite giving away height and weight advantage to his 6ft 4ins fellow Canadian.

Stephenson won neither bout, but was clearly not prepared to see Olson remain unchallenged.

Finnerty said: “We showed character, with guys like Stephenson sticking up for each other. Olson is probably the toughest guy in the league and Matt fought him twice. We are built on team toughness.

“We didn’t bring in a heavyweight, so guys have to look out for each other.”

Finnerty accepts, however, that his side will have to be more ruthless in clearing the net when Steelers entertain Devils.

“We were a bit too liberal,” he said. “But the weekend provided a good foundation to work with. There’s a lot of work ahead of us but we have an eager bunch.

Recriminations seem likely after an incident in which Coventry’s Brad Leeb broke Jason Hewitt’s nose with a sucker punch on Saturday.

The League will this week rule if they are to ban Leeb for multiple games.

Despite Leeb’s NHL background, Hewitt said: “Some people never learn. But it’s a long season and we’ll meet again.”

Teammate Drew Fata said he did not see the incident but added: “We know who it is and we play them a lot this year.”

The League disciplinary committee will report on its findings within 24 hours.