Sheffield Steelers coach Aaron Fox on his watching brief in EIHL Play Off finals

In the end, the climax of the EIHL season couldn't come quick enough for Sheffield Steelers.

Monday, 2nd May 2022, 11:19 am

Belfast Giants' double-winning achievement along with Sunday's Play Off final win by Cardiff Devils, brought the curtain down on a campaign that had prematurely fizzled out at quarter-final stage for Aaron Fox's team.

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Coach Fox watched Saturday's play-off semi-finals from the stands in Nottingham and had seen enough not to feel the need to watch the final at the rink.

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Cardiff lifted the post-season silverware with two empty-net goals to secure a 6-3 victory over Belfast.

Fox told The Star: "It was disappointing, obviously, to be sat in the box watching and not doing what we do on a game-day."

It was a useful exercise though: "You are looking at certain things, there may be certain payers that you might like from a certain team."

Steelers haven't won the Play-Offs since the 2016–17 and they didn't look like changing that in their quarter-final legs against Dundee Stars.

Robert Dowd, British player of the year.

A handful of survivors of Steelers' last grand final win remained on the Steelers' 2021-22 roster; Robert Dowd, John Armstrong, Jonathan Phillips, Davey Phillips and Cole Shudra.

That number could diminish further as Fox starts a rebuild - although the majority seem likely to stay as part of the core group.

Dowd, who has been voted British player of the year by league coaches and general managers, knows it's been too long since Sheffield won the Play Offs and far too long since they won the league (2015–16.)

"It is fantastic to win any trophy, obviously, there are three trophies to win during the year if you can pick up any one of those it is considered a fantastic year," the forward says.

Robert Dowd, British player of the year.

Dowd retains vivid memories of the 94-minute game in which Sheffield beat Joey Martin's Cardiff after two periods of sudden death overtime.

Despite the joy of that victory, the GB winger hopes he never has to play in such a long, exhausting game again.

"That was a long game, but a great game of hockey and a great showcase for British hockey but that was the longest game I hope to have ever played in my career, that was a grind."

The Sheffield roster of that side contained the likes of Mathieu Roy, Colton Fretter, Zack Fitzgerald and Guillaume Desbiens.

Asked how such a character-filled outfit compared to the class of 2021-22, he said there had been "some good characters" in the dressing room in recent times.

They were different from the Roy era but they still included some big-game players, he said.

More big-game players will be needed to get Steelers back at the top of the EIHL tree next season.

EIHL coaches picked their two favourite All-star team Line Ups as: Tyler Beskorowany, Griffin Reinhart, Jamal Watson, JJ Piccinich, Scott Conway, Marco Vallerand and a second line of Mac Carruth, Daine Todd, Matt Register, Charlie Combs, Brodie Reid, Mathieu Roy.