David Simms Sheffield Steelers ice hockey column: Now’s the time to get the job done
The message this weekend from the Sheffield Steelers is a simple one. “Let’s get the job done and qualify for the play offs.”
Two games this weekend against top and bottom.
On Saturday we have a must-win encounter with MK Lightning, they are bottom of the league and out of contention for the play offs.
They are, however, a group that refuse to lay down and die and for that I give them and their head coach, former Steeler, Tim Wallace huge credit.
It was MK who the Steelers faced in our first home fixture back some seven months ago, the former Steelers crew of Wallace, Andreas Valdix, Eric Neiley and Cole Shudra came back to haunt us that night.
On Saturday there can be no such repeat performance. Only a victory can even be considered.
Should we turn on the style the way we have in our last few home games than MK shouldn’t be able to live with us.
When the Steelers roll four lines we are a different team and with the injured players returning we have been able to do that more recently.
We’ve also been blessed at long last find a scoring line.
Captain Jonathan Phillips has been joined by centre Evan McGrath and winger Anthony DeLuca.
DeLuca sent us all home happy last Saturday scoring 4 goals and an assist in the 5-4 victory over league leading Cardiff.
McGrath continued his excellent recent form (1+9 in the last 8 games) with 3 assists and Phillips scoring the all important 3rd goal.
Anthony arrived late this season, in November, and as he hadn’t played much leading up to that this season and struggled in the first few weeks.
In fact, he came to prominence over Christmas if you remember. Boxing Day in Nottingham, the game tied through three periods and overtime.
Then came the penalty shots and we saw for the first time just how skilled the Steelers No 15 was.
He sold Mike Garnett a move and slotted him with a classy finish.
Since then he has gone from strength to strength. Saturday’s four goals was the icing on the cake.
Having played on every line combination possible McGrath too has now found line mates that suit his game and the productivity that was expected earlier in the season has come through.
It is in fact McGrath that leads our scoring over the last 8 games with the 10 points referred to earlier.
His 14 goals and 52 points tally leads Steelers scoring this season.
Phillips’ tally of 12 has only ever been beaten once by the club captain and that was back in 2007/08 – yet again he has defied his age by just giving everything he has and putting it on the line.
My admiration for Jonno increases year by year, he cares, he wants it badly and the year his side have had will have eaten away at him more than anyone.
A final word on Ben O’Connor, if we were to lose any player with a later injury I’d suggest none of us would want it to be him, our most influential player, our best player.
We all grimaced, we all feared the worst as he left the ice last Saturday in obvious pain.
The good news was reported on Sunday: “No break”.
That doesn’t mean an immediate return but the news coming from Benny is that the ankle and foot are feeling better every day. I expect that we will see him back on the ice before the end of the season. Good news and a relief for us all.
A huge weekend, a simple must not lose game against MK – let’s roll those dice and bring the points home.