Ice Hockey: Steelers chief hopes experience will prove key for side in new season

Whatever gets thrown at Steelers' defensive corps this coming season, it is a fair bet they will have seen it all before.

Thursday, 25th July 2019, 11:25 am
Updated Thursday, 25th July 2019, 2:32 pm
Aaron Fox at Rhino office pic by Bob Westerdale

Coach Aaron Fox has ensured the blue line skaters that represent Sheffield are experienced, have impressive pedigrees and, hopefully, will be unflappable under pressure from day one.

The side has two 36-year-olds in second-year d-man Aaron Johnson (291 games in the NHL) and new recruit Jonas Liwing, who has graced the top leagues in Sweden and Germany and won a championship in France.

Coming in as a 34-year-old is Aaron Brocklehurst who has almost 200 games in the German DEL under his belt.

And then there are the two returning Great Britain mainstays, Ben O'Connor, 30, and Davey Phillips, 31, who prove their worth every season for Steelers.

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The baby of the regular defence is another new import, James Bettauer with 351 DEL matches to his credit. The former Krefeld Pinguine star is 28.

Fox says that when he looks at the entire roster, on paper so far, the word "veteran" springs to his mind, particularly when it comes to the 'D.'

"I didn't want to sign guys that I would have to figure out if they can play at this level three months from now," the coach told The Star.

"They have all done it at a higher level than this (EIHL) - now it is a matter of getting them here and ready to work as we need them to. I like our D very much."

Interestingly, on the Elite Prospects website, Eric Meland is listed on the defensive roster for Sheffield. He can play there or up front.

"Last year he finished as a forward; he'd started at 'D' and then maybe played his last 25 games up front," said the coach.

"He will probably start as a forward. As far as I have seen him on tape, he plays a gritty game, can dominate down low, is responsible defensively and makes stuff happen."

Fox sees him as a third line forward or a top five defenceman: "It is nice to have that (option) - my whole goal was the bring in a guy who can help both sides."

Steelers also have 17-year-old Jordan Griffin, an apprentice, on their defensive books. He saw ice time last year with Great Britain U18s and U20s as well Sutton Sting and Bradford Bulldogs U18.