Sheffield Steelers in manpower crisis after Euro tournament, coach admits - could Ashley Tait help?
Steelers' coach Paul Thompson makes no bones about it - he faces nothing short of a crisis in manpower after Sheffield's bronze medal winning tournament in Belarus.
Robert Dowd is out for much of the rest of the season, joining John Armstrong as a long-term absentee.
Linemates Colton Fretter and Mathieu Roy are “pretty banged up,” says the coach.
And Miika Fransilla missed the last two matches of the Continental cup with an unspecified problem.
Plus Zack Fitzgerald and Andreas Jamtin will be suspended for three games and four games respectively on their return EIHL duties after transgressions against Belfast Giants in domestic competition.
You can’t replace homegrown star Dowd - maybe veteran Ashley Tait is the only suitable British player that might be available should a call come his way from his old club.
But Thompson knows he will have to rely on the rest of his squad to fill the holes created by injury and suspension.
“Is it a crisis? Yeah” the coach said. “Our two top scorers are out for weeks and with the guys that are now suspended it means it is a massive issue for us.
“To say it is a crisis is probably an understatement. We are in a position where we will have to claw back points in the League, we are in a situation where we have not exactly helped ourselves and we need those points.
“On the positive side, if we play like we did in the last two games of the tournament, (against Yunst Minsk, 4-5 loss, and Ritten Sport, 2-0 win, Continental Cup finals) we will be able to do that.
“We were at least the second-best team in the Finals and that’s why there is frustration we only came away with the bronze medal.”
Steelers will have Liam Kirk back from illness for the coming weekend’s return to action. And Fretter, Fransilla and Roy are likely to be fit enough play against Guildford Flames, who were crushed 8-3 by Elite League front-runners Cardiff Devils on Sunday.
Steelers don’t resume training until Thursday, after returning to the UK late Monday night.
So time will be tight to get their conditioning and battle-levels ready for Flames.
While Sheffield were away in Belarus, as expected, their domestic position reflected their EIHL inactivity, dropping from third place after their last league game to fifth.