Sheffield Steelers: Follow the plans or fall short in silverware race, Ben O'Connor warns
Ben O'Connor admits Sheffield Steelers will fail to bridge the gap between themselves and Belfast Giants and Cardiff Devils if they do not execute their coach's blueprint for success.
Steelers lost at home to Glasgow Clan on Sunday, after several players either lapsed into individual errors or went their own way, rather than follow Aaron Fox's game plan.
Sheffield entertain Cardiff on Sunday - and the Welsh will be fired up after twin losses last weekend, at Coventry Blaze (5-1; Challenge Cup) and at home to Glasgow Clan (6-2; League.)
O'Connor takes the Devils' recent results with a pinch of salt - denying they are weaker than last year.
"We have been watching them when they are in the Champions Hockey League and they are a very good team," he said.
"Andrew Lord has got them drilled very good...they will be raring to go and back to normal in the way they play.
"We have just got to play our way. We have shown when we stick to our system, and play the way we should do, we punish teams and when we get away from that, that's what hurts us."
The GB defenceman admitted in Sunday's early stages against Clan, they departed from coaching instructions.
"We had some lapses, myself included and it is disappointing, it hurts. Second and third period, we are the better team.
"Their goalie made some great saves, we had so many chances, and we fought back , so there is a plus we can take, we didn't fold, we showed fight and character.
"But it is a lesson, we need to stick to our system, do what Aaron is telling us, and that is what will win us games."
Asked whether Cardiff were a genuine force in European hockey, O'Connor replied: "Not only Cardiff but I think Belfast as well, this league is getting so much better year on year, and the European teams are really taking note of that.
"It started with Nottingham doing so well in the CHL and Cardiff and Belfast are following that up and doing the League proud.
"It's great on them and is great for the League for that exposure."
But can Sheffield close the gap on the two clubs who dominated last season?
"Yes, when we play the way we can do and showed that for 45-50 minutes (against Clan) yes - when we get away from that: no. Same as any team, when you get away from a system they are not successful. We have got a lot of new guys and we are learning.
"We are working hard, it is not lack of effort, it's just maybe sometimes guys are trying to do too much, again myself included."
He added: "It's getting back to basics and playing the way we should do and that's when we are successful."