Sheffield Steelers' aim is Euro qualification and no injuries - Bob Westerdale

There will be plenty of ways to measure whether Sheffield Steelers' venture into European competition turned out to be a successful one.

Friday, 19th November 2021, 9:21 am

Obviously, winning the Continental Cup is the main objective.

If the team qualifies from this weekend's tournament against Aalborg, Riga and Gomel, in Denmark, anything really is possible in the finals weekend in January.

But there are other factors at play. Not least of all the prospect of injuries to any more of the roster's key players, like Marco Vallerand and Tanner Eberle.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Sheffield Steelers goalie Rok Stojanovic. Picture by Dean Woolley

The biggest ambition for Steelers this season is lifting the EIHL regular-season trophy.

Read More

Read More
Sheffield Steelers ready for Danish test against Aalborg Pirates in Continental ...

In short, European activity cannot get in the way of that.

The side has been riddled with a variety of different wounds and illnesses after the recent, crammed domestic programme.

Anthony De Luca, Marco Valerand and Brendan Connolly celebrating cup glory with Sheffield Steelers

A hectic series 1,000 miles away presents the possibility that the casualty list will grow further.

Coach Aaron Fox summed it up best: "I am not sure three games in three days is what our club needs, to be perfectly honest."

However, the club and the UK league cannot grow unless it pits itself against its peers overseas.

Sheffield's players will enjoy the challenge and the opportunity to bond, away from everyday life in South Yorkshire.

There could be a lot of plus-points.

It will be a new experience to some on the team-sheet, not to others.

Goalie Rok Stojanovic, for instance, will be hoping he will be third time lucky when Sheffield took to the ice.

CONTINENTAL CUP EXPERIENCE

Rok has played two previous Continental tournaments, for HDD Jesenice (his native Slovenia) and French team Lyon.

British teams acquitted themselves superbly in those two tournaments he dressed for.

Nottingham Panthers won the trophy when Rok played for Jesenice. Then, his team failed to qualify over the three games in 2016-17 and it was the same story during his time with Lyon in 2018-19, when Belfast Giants were runners-up.

It was challenging for him then - and it will be for him and his Sheffield team-mates this time.

Injuries, apart, Sheffield's last outing was a 0-5 home loss to Cardiff Devils.

Stojanovic conceded three of those goals to Devils, but he will make sure that is just a distant memory from now on.

"As a professional player, you try to forget the game, turn a new page and put 100 percent effort in practice and get prepared for the Continental Cup" he says.

"I think have a pretty good chance to go all the way through; we need to focus game by game."

The strapping netminder has never faced a Danish team before so didn't really know what to expect from Friday's game against host team Aalborg Pirates.

But Gomel, from Belarus, who came fourth in the 2018 series Stojanovic played in, will present a very difficult task, he said.

"The Russians skate really fast and (do) a lot of passing so...very tough."

While Stojanovic admits the Continental Cup is slower than the premium series, the Champions Hockey League, he says the side will have to be "100 percent ready" if they are to succeed to the final round in January.

Let's take the positives from this and hope Steelers sail through to the New Year finals and come back from them supercharged for the remaining 30 league games.