The challenges facing a young Sheffield Steeldogs club

Ben Morgan - by Peter Best
Ben Morgan - by Peter Best
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Sheffield ice hockey fans love to win in Nottingham. And Steeldogs supporters are no different.

A 6-0 win on Sunday moved the Steeldogs into second place in the NIHL North, however Saturday’s cup defeat in Peterborough was an example of the less satisfactory aspect of their results this season.

Although it was something of a dead rubber, like all of the Dogs' cup games, it was against a former EPL team, and so far they have only recorded an overtime loss in five cup clashes.

This Saturday, top of the table Telford visit iceSheffield and will again ask the question: 'can the Steeldogs compete with their old EPL rivals?'.

Coach Ben Morgan said: “I can see where people might be concerned but if you look at Basingstoke, at Telford, at Peterborough, the teams they’ve kept together are effectively EPL teams and ours isn’t – but we are better than an NIHL team from last year. The only way we’ll get better is by playing against that higher quality opposition and learning from it."

The first year coach added: “It’s a massive learning curve for 30% of our team – we’ve got a lot of youngsters who never really played in the EPL.

"I want this squad to be built on a team that can be around for many years to come and if that’s going to be the case we have to play three lines and give the younger kids ice time.

"If not we’ll run out of steam, run out of creativity and then you’ll get more injuries, more suspensions and then you’d have to play the kids who’ve had no ice time and you’d be back to square one”.

The Steeldogs are seen as one of ‘big’ teams in their league and the weekends with mixed cup and league fixtures bring a different challenge; “It’s difficult to go from a game one night where you are expected to win to one the next night where it’s a real battle.

"We know in maybe 70% of our games we are expected to win but when we play the other games we can’t play poorly and expect to win.

“If you look at the players who’ve been with us over the past few years, they’ve been used to going in to 80% of games knowing they’re the underdogs who are going to have to fight for anything, whereas now there’s a culture shift where we need to go out and win games rather than just keep them tight – and that’s difficult both for the experienced guys and the new ones too who haven’t had that pressure before”.

Sunday’s 6-0 victory in Nottingham may have been against one of the weaker NIHL teams however Morgan took lots of positives from it which he hopes will serve his team well against Telford.

“We put together a strong 60 minutes and really dominated the game. Telford have more strength in depth but if we play with that focus and discipline, we can beat them. We only lost on penalty shots in early September so we’ll be all out to take the win and keep up our strong start in the league.

"They’re top but we are second so it’s going to a big, big game, a chance to show what we are capable of."

The action starts at iceSheffield at 7:30 on Saturday with the Steeldogs travelling to play the Deeside Dragons on Sunday.