Steelers face old pal Dowd in Elite League opener

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Rob Dowd opens the new Elite League season tomorrow and comes face-to-face with Sheffield Steelers team-mates he left behind.

The winger signed for Belfast Giants’ immediately after last season’s championship success - courting speculation that he didn’t always see eye to eye with then Sheffield coach Ben Simon.

Ironically, Simon also moved on from Steelers, he became assistant coach at the Rockford IceHogs in Illinois, US.

Dowd meanwhile had committed to trying his luck in Northern Ireland and must have had a wry smile when the fixture list pitted him against his old side on the first day.

Steelers coach Ryan Finnerty said: “It seems Rob and Ben didn’t see eye to eye and now he has gone to Belfast he will be wanting to do well against his old team.

“But we will want to play hard against him, too. A few of our guys were a little upset and disappointed he left and there will be no free passes to him tomorrow night.

“Dowdy will want to show he has made the right decision and our guys will want to prove he should have stayed.”

The 23-year-old Teessider joined Steelers in 2007 and has been a consistent scorer. His 61 points tally last term was his best.

But Finnerty is more concerned with his own line-up at the Odyssey Arena.

His lines are likely to be: Legue-Clark-Ramsay, Hewitt-Tait-King and Phillips-Finnerty-Squires or Esders.

Transport and travel fatigue are frequently issues for teams going to Belfast, but Steelers left today and will get a 30-minute skate on the rink tomorrow morning.