Sheffield Steelers' ace admits his team could not have caught Belfast Giants

Justin Hodgman has paid a sporting compliment to treble-hunting Belfast Giants.
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The Northern Irish club collected the Challenge Cup and then topped the last League standings by seven points.

Adam Keefe's team could go on to win the Grand Slam this weekend in the EIHL finals, a series that Sheffield Steelers will miss out on as they lost in the quarter finals to Dundee Stars.

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Steelers' centre Hodgman now plans to retire from the ice, but is grateful for his final year in South Yorkshire.

"It has been interesting, to say the least, playing for the first time in a league like this where potentially almost every game you play is a play off game, where the major trophy is the regular-season trophy, and when you lose points you can't get them back and it can come back and bite you at that end of the year" he said.

"I feel we were prepared for that. I am proud of the way we played all year."

He said there were games he'd liked to have had back, mentioning the April 4 shoot out loss at Manchester Storm, a defeat at Fife Flyers in early March an the back-to-back disappointments over Dundee in the same month.

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However Hodgman, the 33-year-old right-shot, did not seek to avert any credit away from Belfast, whom they met three times in the last four games of the regular campaign, and lost on each occasion.

Justin Hodgman, right.Justin Hodgman, right.
Justin Hodgman, right.

While Steelers knew what was on the line and were desperate for success, Belfast "took care of all three" he said.

"Even if we had won those points I mentioned, (against Storm, Flyers and Stars) I don't think it was enough to have caught Belfast.

"It came down to those three games and they were the better team and hats off to them."

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Injuries had played a role in the way Sheffield faltered, he believes, describing Brendan Connolly as a "huge points getter and emotional leader."

Justin Hodgman shoots.Justin Hodgman shoots.
Justin Hodgman shoots.

The absence of talisman Marco Vallerand for an "extended period" (12 games) had also been damaging, but he said that while Sheffield would have liked to have won the League, they can be proud of the effort they put in.

"We grinded well, we just fell short to a better team at the end of the year."

Hodgman's comments were reinforced by Sam Jones, who has just been handed a new two year deal.

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"It wasn’t the way any of us wanted or expected this year to finish. There’s going to be a sour taste in all of our mouths for the next four months" tweeted the defenceman. "See you all in September for another go."

Sam Jones.Sam Jones.
Sam Jones.

Hodgman, the former Arizona Coyotes NHLer played 63 games for Steelers, and was Sheffield's seventh top scorer, and had a plus-minus ratio of +10.

Only John Armstrong won more face offs during the course of the League season.