Ice hockey: Sheffield Steelers must steer clear of trouble against Swedish side HV71

Steelers' first-line centre may be new to the team and the country - but he knows what trap his side must avoid if they are to progress in the Champions Hockey League.

John Armstrong, Sheffield Steelers
John Armstrong, Sheffield Steelers

Sheffield take on crack Swedish side HV71 on Thursday in the opening game of the European tournament and are very much the underdogs. Previous British sides have failed in similar tournaments, often because their physical style attracts too many penalties.

Armstrong, who joined Sheffield after seasons at Lillehammer, Norway and Odense Bulldogs, Denmark says: “I’ve watched some Swedish Hockey League games, they are fast, high tempo, maybe not as physical as this league so we have got to stay out of the penalty box...and hopefully keep up with their speed.”

The Canadian said coach Paul Thompson had drilled into the team the importance of “not getting sticks up on guys, just trying to take the body and play smart out there.”

Armstrong opened his account for Sheffield in Sunday’s 5-1 sinking of Aalborg Pirates, in a friendly.

He is working hard to forge an understanding with experienced wingers Colton Fretter and Mathieu Roy.

“They are two really good, experienced players,” he said.

John Armstrong, Sheffield Steelers

“I think we are going to work really well together it is going to take a couple of games until we get used to each other’s positioning, timing, just like every other pre-season.

“But I am very confident we can be a successful line and we can work really well together.”

Before being approached by the club, Armstrong had heard “good things about Sheffield” and was happy when the invitation for talks came his way.

He recognises there is a public clamour for the side to win its third-straight League title.

John Armstrong, Sheffield Steelers

“It is a winning organisation, as soon as I came in here, I noticed that’s what’s everybody is talking about,” he added.

“Sheffield is here to be first place, we are here to win. And that is why I am here. That is why you play the game. We want to win games.”