Skating on thin ice

Slush hockey: Chad Huttel on Cardiff ice in a pre season game
Slush hockey: Chad Huttel on Cardiff ice in a pre season game
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INJURIES can be your biggest adversary as a professional coach.

And Sheffield Steelers’ Ryan Finnerty has had a belly-full this week with captain Jonathan Phillips (knee) out for four months, Matt Stephenson (upper body) out for this weekend’s double-header with Cardiff Devils, Tom Squires a doubt (shoulder) and Rod Sarich (back) gingerly feeling his way back after missing games.

But the biggest challenge to face Steelers player-boss this weekend could be the quick-melting ice pad they skate, and sometimes slide on, in South Wales tomorrow. “When we played a friendly game there (pre-season) it was like playing on water” said the former Devil, who had the misfortune to play on the pad for a year and a half when he was Cardiff property.

“The people, rink and team are all great in Cardiff but the ice there is brutal” he said. “You get a good atmosphere there and it’s a shame because each game there could be so much better if it wasn’t for the ice – it’s a joke. Everybody in the League knows its the worst ice there is. We will just have to play a lot simpler. You have got to move the puck fast because skating is hard if not impossible.”

Finnerty expects Devils to use the slushy conditions to their advantage. “They are a big team and will play physical there, that’s how they win so many of their games.”

The Steelers boss will coach in his first Elite League game against his old mentor Gerad Adams.

“‘G’ is a good coach and he is always helping me on day-to-day things. I am always putting in calls to him – but I’ve not rung him this week to find out who he’s using on his power play!”

Steelers will be up against old foe Brad Voth, the rampaging 6ft 5ins power forward, who has been blamed for injuring several Steeler players over the years. But Sheffield bench coach Neil Abel thinks Voth is a fading force.

“When we played them in the friendly he looked out of shape and I don’t think he will have the same impact as in the past” said Abel.

“Whether that will mean he plays any cleaner I doubt, it could be worse. We just have to be aware of him. Then again, if he spends a lot more time in the penalty box, that won’t help his team.”

Abel is confident his own side will be successful this term, saying: “We have a good bunch of boys here, they are good enough to win some silverware.”