How Marco Vallerand's Sheffield Steelers' season turned in an instant

Christmas came a day late for Marco Vallerand.
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He had been struggling to find the back, unlike others in his Sheffield Steelers team.

But then Boxing Day came along...and things have been pretty festive since, for the Canadian forward, who turns 35 next month.

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He has been scoring regularly and leads the team on power play goals.

In fact, his 12 strikes in this EIHL season puts him in some historic company.

His dozen puts him on a level with season-long figures Mathieu Roy (2016-17) and Jeff Legue (2011-12) and behind Colt King (13; 2011-12) Mike Forney (17; 2014-15) and the mercurial Roy again (16 in 2017-18 and 18 in 2014-15) according to website steelersstats.co.uk

Vallerand's December 26th ruthlessness in front of goal returned after an unusual absence, he had scored only once in 13 outings before the game against Nottingham Panthers.

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Panthers had narrowed Steelers' lead to 2-1 but home fans nerves began to relax when he scored on the power play and put his side on to victory.

Marco Vallerand gets the monkey off his back Nottingham Panthers Pic by Dean WoolleyyMarco Vallerand gets the monkey off his back Nottingham Panthers Pic by Dean Woolleyy
Marco Vallerand gets the monkey off his back Nottingham Panthers Pic by Dean Woolleyy

You could sense it was a landmark moment.

It was his first home goal of the season and he celebrated with a "monkey off the back" gesture.

Four games later, Vallerand scored two power play goals in a 5-1 statement win at Cardiff Devils and the start of a rich vein of form which has continued since.

In his last 16 games he has been credited with 10 goals (six of them PPs) and nine assists.

Marco Vallera and Mitchell Balmas enjoy the momentMarco Vallera and Mitchell Balmas enjoy the moment
Marco Vallera and Mitchell Balmas enjoy the moment
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Steelers will lean on his special output and contribution as they continue their drive towards the league title, they are currently 12 points ahead of Cardiff, with just 14 league games remaining.

This weekend's games start with a Saturday fixture against Manchester Storm, who have lost all their previous 10 league and Challenge Cup games to Steelers.

It could be a red-letter day for Vallerand's coach Aaron Fox. A home win would represent his 200th victory in charge of Steelers.

Fox has lost 81 games during his tenure at Sheffield, but this season's nonstop successes have taken him to a win ratio of 70 per cent, one per cent ahead of Gerad Adams and Ronnie Wood but two per cent behind Ben Simon.

Meanwhile, Swinton's Ben Bowns has won the EIHL's 'Save of the Week' for defying Steeler and his GB team mate Robert Dowd.