Sheffield Steelers' coach reveals his thoughts on Belfast Giants and Cardiff Devils

It's been a memorable week, off the ice, for Sheffield Steelers.

Friday, 25th March 2022, 10:32 am

They tied the knot with the Arena's owners for another seven years and agreed three-year contracts with Aaron Fox and Carter Beston-Will, the coaching partners.

On the ice, the figures haven't added up quite so neatly. The League table does not lie and Fox has had to accept an uncomfortable truth since the beginning of this month.

Belfast Giants have been playing the better hockey and winning more points.

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Sheffield have lost seven of their last dozen games. They are the definition of the word inconsistent, as last weekend's defeat and victory illustrated.

Going into Friday's game at Nottingham Panthers, Belfast had lost just one of their last dozen games, the consolation in South Yorkshire being that the defeat came at the hands of Steelers.

Giants have done little wrong in the second half of the campaign and deserve to be perched at the top of the EIHL.

Individually, gone are the days when Steelers' Marco Vallerand and Rok Stojanovic reigned as highest scorer and top goals-against goaltender, respectively, across the Elite division, those accolades now held by Belfast's JJ Piccinich and Tyler Beskorowany.

New deal for Steelers' coaching duo. Pic: Dean Woolley

"I would much prefer being in their position than ours currently" Fox acknowledged, referring to Giants.

"We haven't played great hockey down the stretch, we have dealt with tons of adversity," said the team boss.

"If you look at since we have lost Daine Todd (end of February) we have struggled a bit, I think he was probably the best defenceman in the league.

"If you lose a guy like that is going to hurt your group.

Daine Todd, returned home after leg break.

"Losing Evan Mosey - and Marco Vallerand and Vally for eight weeks this year - shows we haven't had a very clean year from the injury side of things.

"If you look at Belfast, their first line and top 'D' pair, they have missed a combined five games all year long in the regular season.

"It is one of those things and whether it has caught up with us now...we'll see.

"But if we come committed and play the right way we are still a pretty good hockey team," said Fox.

Marco Vallerand, his absence earlier this year caused was a big loss for the team.

"We just have to find a way to do it night in and night out, right now.

"There is a ton of belief in our room that we can do this, (win the League) but sometimes it is 'less talk and a little more action' especially on a night in, night out basis.

"The reality is that we have Belfast three out of the last four games at the end of the year and we have to take care of our own business until then."

That business starts at third place Cardiff Devils on Saturday.

The Welsh lost at Fife Flyers last weekend.

"I think they have hit the same issue we have this year," said the Sheffield coach.

"When they are fully fit and healthy they are a pretty dangerous team.

"They have been playing with 4 'D' they have had Brendan Mikkelson and Marc McNulty out for weeks, I'm not sure what their situation is now.

"Matt Register played 38 minutes the other night when I watched, it is asking a lot out of those four defencemen, Register, Mark Richardson, Josh Batch, and Mark Lewis.

"If you are playing four 'D' for an extended period of time, it is hard to play a certain way for 60 minutes, going every other shift, so we will see where they are at the weekend."

Third-placed Cardiff will be hoping to cut the gap between them and Sheffield to two points.

On Sunday, Sheffield entertain Manchester Storm, who are next to bottom.

Welcome to another must-win weekend.