A new "rink rat" can supercharge Sheffield Steelers' attack

Sheffield Steelers’ class of 2018-19 lacked a lot of things - and a pugnacious import forward was one of them.

By Bob Westerdale
Friday, 07 June, 2019, 10:48
Brendan Connolly

That absence of animation and energy around the net - mirroring at times what was going on at the other end of the Steeler ice - wasn't lost on new coach Aaron Fox, when he took the reins.

Of the overseas skaters who started last year’s campaign, the Rupert brothers, Chris Lawrence, Stefan Della Rovere and Justin Buzzeo were among those who were dumped early.

Eric Neiley can play that “rink rat” role but it was only Tanner Eberle who regularly threatened to go on the rampage, when it came to import forwards.

All of which explains why Fox pushed the boat out to land Brendan Connolly, with Nottingham Panthers and others also clamouring for his signature.

The coach believes Connolly will have the feistiness Steelers lacked and the fans love.

The relatively-small Canadian will turn 34 in September, but he is still expected to bring an edge to his game, like the similarly-aged Andreas Jamtin did in a Steelers' shirt for a while.

Last season, at Glasgow Clan, Connolly chalked up 92 penalty minutes, second only to enforcer Zack Fitzgerald.

In the previous season at Belfast Giants, it was a similar story, with Connolly's 154 minutes beaten only by Spiro Goulakos.

And it isn't a huge surprise when viewing the stats for his time at Rungsted in Denmark in 2016-17...he was head and shoulders above anyone else for PIMs with 186.

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His last season in north American saw him top the naughty list at Alaska Aces.

In all those seasons, though, his familiarity with the penalty box didn't stop him from being at or near the top of the goals and assists chart.

In Sheffield's team last year, Eberle was the top penalty taker with 120 minutes. Aaron Johnson followed him with 89.

If Steelers managed to re-negotiate a fresh contract with the 24 year old Eberle - allied with Fox's desire to bring in an aggressive defenceman to fill Ryan Martinelli's spot - the Sheffield team should have a more feisty look about it, come August.

Meanwhile, Mathieu Gagnon - who topped the penalty minute stats for Nottingham Panthers in 2017-18, will be patrolling the blue line for Manchester Storm next season.

Their coach Ryan Finnerty said his "toughness" was one of the factors behind his appointment.

While, Justin Hamonic, who was third highest PIM-taker for French side Angers last term was unveiled a few days ago as a Coventry Blaze defenceman.

Coach Danny Stewart desccribed Hamonic as "a big body, very strong."