Sheffield Steelers' coach Aaron Fox has trust in Cole Shudra, Alex Graham and Brandon Whistle
Steelers' coach Aaron Fox has revealed his new-found trust in three young skaters all anxious to make their mark on the EIHL scene.
Two-way assets Cole Shudra, 23, Alex Graham, 19, and Brandon Whistle, 24, all played a part in Wednesday's Challenge Cup Quarter-Final first leg win over Fife Flyers.
They were filling the shoes of imports like Justin Hodgman, Tanner Eberle, John Armstrong and Adrian Saxrud-Danielsen, out with Covid or injury.
"They have built some confidence in their game" said Fox.
"Grammer has been really good down this stretch, for me. He has got himself in better shape, he works hard, his game has come a long way.
"I trust Alex every time I put him out there, in the 2019-2020 year when I was putting Cole or Alex or Kieran (Brown) on the ice I didn't really trust them and right now with Brandon, Alex and Cole I have zero concern when I put them on the ice."
While he might try and avoid matching them up against the League's premier players, "when they are out playing against bottom six guys I am very comfortable."
Whistle and Shudra have been developing at NIHL club Leeds Knights while Graham has seen ice for Sheffield Steeldogs and Great Britain U20s.
But their shifts for Steelers - who will depend on them again should their absenteeism continue - will doubtless improve their game further.
They relished their contributions in the 5-1 victory over Fife.
The defending Cup champions scored four goals in under eight minutes to give themselves a seemingly inevitable march into the semi finals.
Man of the match Robert Dowd, who needs five more goals to pass Jeff Legue to become third in the Steelers all time goal scorers' list, had a full time centreman's role to cover for those out of the side and he scored twice.
His second goal, when Fife had dragged themselves back to 3-1 down, effectively killed off the opposition.
Fife, outgunned 6-0 in their last trip to the Arena, had a fuller than normal roster.
But they went behind when Jonas Emmerdahl was penalised for cross-checking and Dowd shot through goalie Shane Owen's pads.
The last period saw Sheffield grab the opportunity to widen the gap and make the second leg a more comfortable experience.
The 4,216 fans were off their seats when Keaton Ellerby's shot rebounded for Matias Sointu to easily execute.
And a semi final spot became even more likely when Evan Mosey grabbed a video-reviewed third, two minutes later.
But that lead was eroded with six minutes left, Michael McNicholas pulling one back.
Thankfully Dowd wrestled the puck clear of an opponent and fired in the fourth, soon to be followed by a rebound goal for Vojtech Polak.
Steelers, who have not lost in regulation in the EIHL since November 14, are on a roll.
And they will be looking to sustain that momentum at Coventry Blaze on Friday, when they return to League action.