Sheffield Steelers welcome second crack at marvellous Minsk
Steelers won't have an inferiority complex when they play Yunosk Minsk in the Continental Cup grand final.
The Belarussians hammered Sheffield 7-1 in last Friday’s Continental Cup opener in Denmark.
Paul Thompson’s men recovered to beat host club Rungsted Ishockey on Saturday and then overcame Kurbads Riga of Latvia to qualify for the final round.
Minsk, though, won all three of their games, scoring 13 goals and conceding only four and topped the mini-league.
Their stars Viktor Turkins, Pavel Razvadovski and Alexander Kogalev were first, second and third point scorers in the third
Yet Thompson said his side would have no fears about facing them again in the finals, which will be held in Sheffield should
Steelers win the bidding process.
“One thing is for certain, we won’t be going into the game blind, like we did in this round” he said.
“We know a lot more about them than we did before, which means we can prepare so much better.
“But they are a high-end hockey club, they are up there with the best and as good as teams in the Champions Hockey League.
“We showed we had the character needed to bounce back after that game - it would not have been a disgrace had we gone out against teams as good as them. But we hung in there and now we go forward from this series with confidence.”
Steelers will come back down to earth quickly.
After the prestige of playing in the rarified atmosphere of European hockey, their next assignment will be at Milton Keynes Lightning’s rink on Saturday.
“We have to get back into the swing of things now” said Thompson.
“We will park this tournament and get back to our bread and butter.”
Thompson made special mention of Mark Matheson, the defenceman he has dubbed “Bobby Moore” because of his influence on defence. Davey Phillips has also been christened Jack Charlton to continue the 1966 World Cup comparison.
The coach rated Jonathan Phillips and Matt Marquardt as “outstanding” as were Rob Dowd and Levi Nelson - the latter being Steelers top CC scorer with three goals and an assist.
*The two other qualifying teams from the other group were Nomad Astana, from the Kazakhstan Hockey Championship and Ritten Sport of Italy.