Ben O’Connor probably earns five times more in Kazakhstan than he ever could at Steelers.
Yet money couldn’t buy this likeable, humble lad the experience he had on Saturday playing ‘on loan’ for Dad’s team.
Ben was acclaimed a new generation Steeler hero by the Arena after becoming man of the match and staking two assists as Steelers won 5-3.
A magical night. Although, last night, Devils certainly got revenge with a 5-2 victory.
Steelers conceded two early goals in a minute, yesterday, through Brent Walton (PP) and Jake Morissette.
Sheffield’s offence couldn’t kick in and the next goal fell to Devils’ Mark Richardson (23;14.) It was the 44th minute before Tyler Mosienko snatched one back.
These two teams are a great match-up. And when Tyson Marsh and Jason Hewitt traded goals, the 2,170 fans knew they were getting their money’s worth.
An empty netter Morissette goal ensured a Welsh win.
However, last night’s defeat at Gerad Adams’ old club can’t rub away the moving way O’Connor was accepted back in Sheffield.
Speaking after emulating his father Mike’s blue line mastery in South Yorkshire, he admitted he’d been overwhelmed by “excitement and nerves.” He’d barely slept a wink, beforehand.
“I was like a kid at Christmas. I was around the organisation as a (boyhood) fan, it’s a dream come true. Standing around the tunnel before, the blackout, my stomach was churning.
“The fans were amazing and I was welcomed by all the boys.”
Recalling growing up around Steelers he said: “I have seen them win and celebrated with them. I always wanted to follow my Dad’s footsteps and play for Steelers.”
Asked who his heroes were, he said: “My Dad, everyone wants to grow up and be just like your Dad. There was Tommy Plommer, Tim Cranston, Ken Priestlay, those guys were amazing.”
O’Connor Jnr will increase his savings playing in Russia or Kazakhstan, but he said: “Everybody makes it out to be all this money, but you put in the work, 26 hours on a train and you are there 10 months of the year. You earn every penny.”
He is now awaiting his agent’s recommendations on his next job there.
“I want to say thanks to all the fans, the reception I got before and after the game was amazing.”
On Saturday, Steelers put themselves under early pressure, Colton Fretter and Dustin Kohn both giving the puck away in their own zones.
Doug Clarkson and Trevor Hendrikx threatened Frank Doyle’s net, but Steelers worked through their problems.
O’Connor was a first line choice on the penalty kill and threw himself at the puck when Carl Hudson took aim.
The GB player then had a crack at goal himself from the left flank - he is obviously at home on either side of the ice.
Then, on his first Power Play, O’Connor wasn’t about to play a safe pass across ice, he sent a penetrating forward pass for Fretter who fired a sizzler top shelf.
A minute later O’Connor was involved in another smart passing move which opened the way for Michael Forney to make it 2-0.
All that hard work was washed away in a 0-2 middle period.
Devils hit the post through Clarkson and then Andrew Lord had a short-handed goal disallowed. Joey Haddad raced out of the penalty box on a counter attack and scored at 26;26.
Doyle managed to foil Morissette on a breakaway but was beaten when Joey Martin roofed the puck.
Devils chalked up more than an hour’s worth of penalty minutes in the last period and if Steelers had been more precise on the PP, they’d have added more than they did.
They went 3-2 up in a bizarre way: Fretter hammered a shot into team-mate Mathieu Roy, who having survived the impact, hit the net.
Haddad again burst out the box to set up a backhanded equaliser for Clarkson.
While Mosienko restored Steelers lead, the game wasn’t safe until the last 35 seconds when Roy was awarded an empty netter.