Sheffield Steelers enforcer is club’s rough diamond - despite the odd error

Zack Fitzgerald - still a hero despite error of judgement in his last game

Zack Fitzgerald - still a hero despite error of judgement in his last game

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It’s a fair assumption that Zack Fitzgerald’s name was probably accompanied by a few expletives on the Steelers bench, in his last game.

With two minutes to go, at Cardiff Devils, he gave away a cross-checking penalty which left to the Power Play winner for Cardiff Devils - a defeat which opened up an 11-point advantage for the league leaders over second-place Sheffield.

The big defenceman may have had the hair-dryer treatment - his coach Paul Thompson has conceded the player was “reprimanded.”

But that incident and its repercussions has not influenced Thompson’s overall view of the quick-fisted American enforcer.

“I have to make a special acknowledgement of how Zack has been playing” said the team boss.

“Unlike some of the star forwards on the team he is not always in the limelight, but you only have to look at how he is playing his game now, to see his overall value.

“He has upped his whole level. From his decision-making to blocking shots with his head, legs hands or whatever.

“He will stand up for his team-mates on any given day.

“His whole round game is excellent - offensively he is getting in shots and getting assists and making plays.”

Thompson accepts the 31-year-old former Braehead Clan and AHL skater made a “bad decision” last Sunday in Cardiff.

“What goes on in the dressing room is private, but safe to say he was reprimanded. It is important, though, to point out he is the first man to stand up in the room if he feels he has done something wrong.

“He knows what we as a team want, he listens to what we are trying to teach, takes it all on board and is a total team guy.

“I wouldn’t swap him for any other player in the League for the role he does - he’s the guy you’d always want in the trenches with you.”

Fitzgerald has accepted making his share of “mistakes” on social media.

* Cardiff Devils extended their lead over Steelers to 13 points last night when they beat Nottingham Panthers 3-1

Sheffield have six games in hand.

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