Bob Westerdale: Would Sheffield Steelers have ended wait for EIHL title with this key pair?

Sheffield Steelers' Elite League programme ends on Friday evening on Belfast Giants' ice pad, the home of the new EIHL champions and a team looking to land a treble.

Friday, 15th April 2022, 9:45 am

It would be hard to bet against the fortunes of a rampant team whose two wins at Sheffield Arena last weekend wrapped up the championship in a white, red, and teal ribbon.

People will say it is sour grapes if you mention the injuries and misfortunes that Sheffield have suffered over the campaign.

But the truth of the matter is that the Steeler team which started the season had a different look to the one that ended it.

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The first line centreman was Travis Oleksuk, he lasted five league games before deciding the landscape didn't suit him and he upped sticks for Villacher SV in Austria.

The second line was Marco Vallerand, Brendan Connolly, and Anthony DeLuca.

Vallerand is the last man standing from that unit, although he has missed 12 games through injury and is bravely playing through issues.

Connolly suffered a season-ending injury in Aalborg, Denmark after just one game in the Continental Cup.

Brendan Connolly - much missed.

Anthony DeLuca failed a drugs test in November and headed back over the Pond.

Daine Todd, one of the smartest defencemen Steelers have had for a long time, flew back home last month after a season-ender in February.

Of those who departed, Connolly and Todd are missed the most.

When Todd was hurt, Sheffield were two points clear of Belfast at the top of the table.

Daine Todd marks his man, Pic James Assinder

So the question has to be: Would Sheffield have landed the league title for the first time since 2016 had those two imports been available all year?

"It is so very, very hard to say, I would say we missed both those guys in our line-up," said Steelers' assistant coach Carter Beston-Will.

"Connolly is such an impact player, he has the ability to change a game, he gets in the dirty areas, such a rat, he takes other teams off their game as well, and then he has the ability to put up points score big goals, like Challenge Cup final, and set up a lot of guys as well around him.

Daine Todd he is arguably one of the best 'D' in this league this year, that is a huge miss obviously.

Travis Oleksuk v Notts, pic by Dean Woolley

He said what the average fan might not see "is so good off the puck on the D side as well. You miss that a little bit. He wasn't just an offensive defenceman we are missing a very solid two-way defenceman, very good with the puck on his stick very good when it is off it" said Beston-Will.

"They are two key guys, it is so hard to say you, can never predict how it would have ended..."