Goalie injury disrupted Steelers' title drive claims forward

Brendan Connolly believes goaltender John Muse's injury was a key factor behind Sheffield Steelers' disappointing end to the 2021 Elite Series finals.

Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 11:07 am

The centreman sportingly acknowledges Nottingham Panthers were worthy winners.

But he feels Sheffield coach Aaron Fox had assembled a "complete team" and Muse's groin problem conspired against them when it mattered most.

Muse was injured 34 minutes into his first game with Sheffield, a 3-2 win over Panthers, on April 3.

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He wasn't to reappear again for another 23 days, in the semi finals and then finals.

Muse was never close to full fitness, as the netminder himself admitted.

But the American did put his body on the line for the club.

Connolly, currently training in Coventry with the Great Britain team, reflected: "Foxy put a tremendous group of players together.

John Muse - never 100 percent fit other than the first half hour of the season. Pic Karl Denham.

"We really did have a complete team, plenty of scoring and lots of great-skating, puck-moving defencemen.

"If it wasn’t for John Muse getting injured I think the Final series could have been a different outcome.

"Muse did his best but was not 100 per cent healthy playing in those games so I don’t think we got to see what he really is capable of.

"Also credit to Nottingham: they played an excellent two games in the final.

Brendan Connolly and team mates, by Dean Woolley

"They capitalised on their chances and really made it difficult for us to generate offence at times; so hats off to them they played well."

Connolly - who like team-mate Adrian Saxrud-Danielsen had contracted Covid 19 before the EIHL mini season - was impressed by the pandemic protection protocols and player-isolation system organised by the League and his own club.

"Overall I think the Elite series was a tremendous success" Connolly told The Star.

"The Steelers, as well as everyone else involved, did a tremendous job keeping the players safe and having the right guidelines in place.

"The fact that there were no positive cases just speaks to the hard work everyone behind the scenes put in."

As for playing for Sheffield next season, the forward said: "I have always enjoyed my time in Sheffield and Foxy (coach Aaron Fox) and I have already had some discussions about next year.

"When the picture becomes more clear on next season we can sit down and figure something out.

"I really can’t see myself wearing anything but orange so hopefully it works out."

Only two players on the Steelers' roster had more ice time than Connolly in the tournament.

The top six Steelers, for average time on ice, per player: 22:47 Jérémy Beaudry, 21:19 Tanner Eberle, 21:02 Connolly, 20:25 Kevin Schulze, 19:58 Adrian Saxrud Danielsen and 19:11 Robert Dowd.