Sheffield Steelers shrug off any match-fitness concerns

Steelers are playing down the potential difficulty of taking on Cardiff Devils - a team with a clearly superior match-fitness - in their first league game of the season.

Monday, 30th August 2021, 1:02 pm

The Sheffield home match falls on Sunday, September 26.

Before then, Steelers play just two exhibition games against Nottingham Panthers (Sept 18 and 19) and a Challenge Cup opener at Manchester Storm on Sept 25.

That's in contrast with Devils, who will have played nine times before heading to South Yorkshire.

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Cardiff's season has already started. They took on Adler Mannheim and Lausanne HC in the Champions Hockey League (Sept 26 and 28) and play two more European matches, no fewer than four exhibition games, and a Challenge Cup game before locking horns with Sheffield.

Steelers' coach Aaron Fox is pragmatic about the situation - if he'd have liked a longer pre-season, he's not letting on.

"Cardiff will have a full month, it depends on how you want to spin it, though," he says, "They could be dinged up! (Injured/fatigued.)

"You just never know how it is going to turn out, positive or negative.

"We will be excited to get going and we'll be fresh, we'll have played two exhibition games and be ready to go."

The South Yorkshire club holds its induction day to welcome their new recruits and returning players on Monday, September 13, five days before the first Notts friendly.

But the Sheffield-based core group is already on the ice and has been joined by new signing Evan Mosey.

Travis Oleksuk arrived late last week and will train this week.

Evan Mosey, already in Sheffield.

Marco Vallerand is due to arrive on Thursday.

Fox says he is satisfied with his Summer-long signing programme, which features seven new faces.

"At the beginning of the summer you don't know exactly who is going to be available, to be honest" said the coach.

"There are players that didn't come available until towards the end of the summer, like Daine Todd and Oleksuk.

Aaron Fox, pic Karl Denham.

"You always start off targeting some guys who pursue other options or try for better leagues and some guys don't become available at all.

"In this business, there is always going to be some guys who fit in better than expected and guys that don't. That's the way it works."

In the 2019-20 season, Martin St. Pierre, a 39-game NHLer, lasted just eight games before being axed.

But Fox says of his new players: "I've watched them all on tape, I wouldn't sign them unless I felt they would make a difference and be good players and help us. But that doesn't mean every single guy will!

"It's part of the business. But I am happy with the group that I've got."

The Steelers' boss watched both of Cardiff's Champions League games (0-5 loss and a 4-1 win.)

Steelers players can't wait for scenes like this. Photo:Dean Wooley

"In the first game, Mannheim took it to Cardiff pretty good but they bounced back in the second game and played solid.

"A couple of players stood out. I have always liked Mac Carruth (goalie) he was in the EBEL when I was in Zagreb for two years.

"He is a good solid guy, with a little fire to him, he will keep them in a lot of hockey games.

"Them, Nottingham and Belfast Giants will have put good rosters together."