When the Sheffield Steelers skated on to the ice last Saturday they welcomed back two much-needed players in Robert Dowd and Levi Nelson.
Wait a minute, you’re thinking... Nelson wasn’t coming back, he hadn’t been missing – and to a point you are right. He had played in the previous games, played well, but on Saturday we saw the return of the real Levi Nelson, alongside Dowd.
Like an old married couple, Messrs Dowd and Nelson picked up where they left off, bouncing off one another. Like Toshack and Keegan, Shearer and Sutton or Lineker and Beardsley. In ice hockey we’ve had many too; Legue and Talbot, Priestlay and Nemeth and the one I most liken Dowd and Nelson to, Cranston and Millie. Great partnerships. Great chemistry can’t be forced on players but when they develop, then they are a thing of great beauty.
Take one away, like when Dowdy was injured, and the remaining part is a little lost. Nelson was a little lost but on Sunday did he find his A-Z, with Dowdy giving directions.
When Nelson is in full flight he is as exciting as any player we have had in Sheffield in recent years. Dowd, too, excites. He picks the puck up and you sit up, you know something is about to happen.
Dowd is one of the smallest guys on our team yet when he hits, he hits hard. He turns over loose pucks, he creates havoc. His skating is electric, his back pressure immense again turning over pucks, creating opportunities. His stature might not be huge but you wouldn’t know it when he shoots the puck, that quick release; that desire to bear down and score is inside the DNA of Robert Dowd.
Nelson is the perfect foil. He, too, skates like the wind. Again, when he comes down on you, the instant reaction is to move forward on to the edge of your seat. Nelson is also a demolition crew rolled into one. It must be a nightmare for an opposition defencemen. You know the hit is coming... brace yourself as Nelson approaches. The hit comes, the boards and glass shake, the turn over made and the deadly duo go to work.
It was no coincidence that Nelson scored twice and had a three-point night on Dowd’s return. It was not unexpected that Dowd, too, would find the back of the Fife net. With one player returning, the Steelers found an offensive line at just the right time.
With four League games remaining the Steelers sit on top, two points ahead of Cardiff - who do have a game in hand. Those Panthers down the road aren’t out of it either. So this weekend, with a game in Nottingham on Saturday and at home to Coventry at the Arena on Sunday, the Steelers have Dowdy and Nelson back at just the right time.
They also welcome power forward Guillaume Desbiens back from a one game suspension; a timely return for the French-Canadian. His relationship with Tyler Mosienko and Mathieu Roy is equally as critical.
Can Sheffield win again in Nottingham on Saturday? Can they find a way past Brian Stewart and the Coventry Blaze the night after? How exciting is it being a Steelers fan right now? This team just simply refuses to give up. See you at the Sheffield Arena on Sunday. Remember Sunday means a 5pm face off - so plenty of time to get the kids back home and to bed before school...