David Simms Sheffield Steelers' ice hockey column: We've got to back coach Tom Barrasso in his bid to reach top four

You can't help but feel that we were on the verge of turning this ship around only to be left once again scratching our heads.Â

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 03 January, 2019, 09:55
Steelers' Anthony DeLuca celebrates a hat-trick after 21 minutes at Manchester

That of course follows the defeat in Manchester after three fantastic victories against Nottingham and the Storm over the holiday period.

We played well in Nottingham, we played even better against the Panthers at home and despite not being at our best for the home game against Manchester we found a way to win.

Tuesday's game though was a step too far against a motivated and aggressive Manchester side.

The club has been proactive since the coaching change, it's bought players in, spent additional budget on the best ones we can find in the market, O'Connor, Neiley, Climie, DeLuca and Armstrong.

Ownership has to this date only released one in return, Jiri Gull.

Just when you think things are changing, such as after those three victories over Christmas, we revert to type and fail to make the gain that would have moved us up the standings.

The only thing we can do is to continue to work hard off the ice and assist the on ice product as much as we can.

With both Eric Neiley and Davey Phillips expected back this month the team will certainly boast a big enough squad, the biggest and most probably the most expensive in the league.

We have to push for a top four finish, we have to.

The seedings for the play offs, the only competition left for us, certainly favour the sides that make the top 4.

As a club we have to do everything we can to support Tom Barrasso in fighting for that position in order that we may have a crack at the post-season play-off finals.

One bright note after the holiday period is the form of Anthony DeLuca, goals, assists, penalty shots and game winners, that guy had a great Christmas.

Parts of his game remind me of David Longstaff, the way he protects pucks, retains puck possession and the type of goals he scores around the net.

Anthony was out of shape when he arrived, hardly surprising as he hadn't played much before arriving here.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

We were told that he was a great lad with a strong character and he has shown that in an abundance. That penalty shot goal in Nottingham raised the confidence levels and since then he has grown offensively.

I'm sure we have all read and listened to Tom speak about the defensive side of the DeLuca game and I'm sure collectively they are both working on that.

Every week Tom is getting Anthony fitter and faster and we are seeing the benefits.

Realistically though we needed some offence, some goals. That is what has cost us so much in the previous months so finding a guy who can put the puck in the net is a massive tick for me.

This weekend hundreds of Steelers fans will travel to Belfast for two games against the title chasing Giants, two wins for the Steelers and those title dreams for Belfast will be extinguished.

However, two Belfast victories and not only will they be confident of challenging favourites Cardiff but the Steelers will feel they are back to the drawing board.

Steelers have a win and a loss against Belfast to date and played some of their best hockey this season in the win against the Giants 5 weeks ago.

Jackson Whistle will be motivated to go back into that arena and silence those who will be baiting him in their thousands this coming weekend.

Sheffield need to come back from Northern Ireland with some points, points that will keep them in contention of that 4th position and a preferred play off draw.

A quick word on the 'Head Shave' for 'Prevent Breast Cancer' that we did last weekend.

£9,000 raised, a brilliant effort by all. Thanks for your donations, especially those on the night when we took over £2,000 to scalp Manchester coach Ryan Finnerty.

What a top bloke, as we walked off the ice, baldies together, he looked at me and said 'God I miss this place'

That's Sheffield Ryan and how we need some of that Finnerty grit and determination that he showed as a player this weekend in Belfast.

Good luck boys.