Morrone and Dowd ready to give their all for Sheffield Steelers
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More than 8,400 fans will be in Sheffield Arena on Saturday night for the first of two back-to-back challenge matches against the closest rivals.
Coach Aaron Fox will likely want to see what shape both import goaltenders (Morrone and Matt Greenfield) are in, during the club’s limited pre-season programme.
And if the spotlight falls on Morrone, he’ll be more than ready for it.
“I have found myself in plenty of situations where I have been under a lot of pressure,” said the netminder, who played 20 games for HK Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia last season.
“When I was 19 I was traded to a team going for the Memorial Cup run (Drummondville Voltigeurs, a junior club in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League ) which had seven or eight guys signed already to the NHL.
“I was supposed to be the back-up to Olivier Redrigue, (a second round Edmonton Oilers’ draft pick.)
“He ended up being injured and I ended up being the starter for that run.
“I had a lot of pressure on my shoulders, I was taking over some big shoes to fill, he was just coming back from the World Juniors.
“I was proud of myself what I did there and since then I have kept that chip on my shoulders that I can do it at that high level, with eyes on me.
“I embrace the pressure.
“In my year in Austria (EHC Lustenau 2020-21) we won a championship in a team with older guys, it was tough, but we pulled through.”
Morrone, a 24-year-old Canadian, will be competing for Greenfield for the starting position.
His mindset was: “To make sure that personally, I am ready at any moment to play at the highest level possible and that means being prepared well, eating well, and taking care of my body.
“There are a lot of games and I need to be ready at any moment. I want to give us the best chance of winning and help as much as I can.”
If Morrone gets on the ice this weekend he could have the towering presence of Rok Stojanovic at the other end.
The 6ft 6in Slovenian played 45 games for Sheffield and is Steelers’ fifth top performer ever in terms of save percentages.
Meanwhile, Robert Dowd, now the senior figure in the line-up, will be facing off the new season with new import team-mates he’d never met before.
There are fewer Brits on the EIHL scene now than previously, but that won’t be on his mind as the season starts.
On game nights, he said: “I’ve never thought of myself as British or an import, it’s not something I look at.
“I am one of the players and want to contribute – regardless of where I was born.
“Obviously I am very proud of being British but when I look at the Steelers’ line-up I don’t think: ‘He is British he should go here or he should go there’.
“It is how good you are as a player. I like to think earn my stripes, whether I am British or not.
“I like to think even if I had a Canadian passport I would still hope to think I would get a job here.”
Dowd says the new look team must utilise every minute of the condensed pre-season campaign to gel.
“I remember one year we came in a lot earlier than other teams as we were in the CHL and we were crushing teams as we were so much more match fit and the speed we had been playing in, in the CHL, really helped us.
“Now we just have to make the most of the time we have together and the exhibitions to get ready for the real stuff.”