‘I am just as much to blame as anyone’

Straight-talking: Matt Stephenson
Straight-talking: Matt Stephenson
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MATT STEPHENSON has admitted his part in Sheffield Steelers’ stuttering defensive displays - despite being given a personal vote of confidence by his coach.

Team boss Ryan Finnerty is unhappy with his side’s general inability to turn back the tide of opposition attempts on his goal.

Conversley, this week, the coach spoke of how he was relying on Stephenson’s experience and leadership qualities on the blue line to help them over the recent problems.

Stephenson, however, is quick to accept his share of guilt for what has gone wrong.

The 27-year-old Canadian skater deliberately smashed his stick in two, in utter frustration, after Coventry scored at Sheffield Arena last weekend.

“That goal was my fault, so I cannot be absolved of blame,” he explained. “We have been making stupid mistakes and I don’t leave myself out of that. It is a team sport and there are five guys out there on the ice who should be helping each other.

“Maybe as a group we have got lackadaisical and we have got to work on that.”

Stephenson, a former AHL defenceman, says a comprehensive defensive zone strategy is critical.

“Generally, a lot of it is about positioning,” he said. “It is a mental thing, there have been lapses, but it is not one person’s fault.

“Against Nottingham Panthers I felt we were a little hesitant and on our heels at times. We need to be more on our toes and bring it to them rather than the other way round.

“Preparation is vital too - we have to be ready to go every shift and every night. The coach can only do so much, the rest is on yourself.”

Despite the shortcomings, Stephenson remains upbeat about the side and its title chances.

“I have played on a lot of winning teams and seen what it takes to win and it is in that (dressing) room.

“We are 21 and 4 (wins and losses) - and that puts us in a great position. We just need to iron out a few wrinkles,” said the former Texas Stars man.

Westerdale’s top d-men

1: Ron Shudra

2: Selmar Odelein

3: Shayne McCosh

4: Steve Munn

5: Dennis Vial

6: Dion Darling

7: Rob Wilson

8: Steve Carpenter

9: Rod Sarich

10: Corey Beaulieu