Sheffield Steelers: 'This year is going to be a lot of fun'

John Armstrong says the fun is back at Sheffield Steelers.

Monday, 26th August 2019, 14:28 pm
Updated Monday, 26th August 2019, 17:51 pm
John Armstrong in action against Poprad

The centreman admits last year's version of the roster struggled in front of goal in a season to forget.

But he has been relieved by the scale of differences between this year and last.

There were "a lot of smart players that have played in some big leagues, KHL, NHL all over Europe," he said.

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"I think the biggest difference is the offence.

"We have a team full of guys that can score.

"So in any game we have confidence that we can come back.

"In our first pre-season game, (HK Poprad) we were down three goals, the guys just came right back."

He said goal potency was missing last year in a team which played more rigidly, defensively.

That "maybe wasn't as fun to watch. But I think this year it is going to be a lot of fun."

The makeover is the work of coach Aaron Fox.

"Aaron does a great job recruiting players and then allowing them some freedom while they are playing," said the Canadian.

"He gives us guidelines, we have our systems but he also gives a little more freedom sometimes, which is great.

"He is also really positive in the room, so far...I think the guys are having fun and that is something I have not seen for a little while."

Fox trusts his players but Armstrong added: "It is not complete freedom, he has definitely got his systems...he is just seeing what works right now and we will be ready to go on Saturday."

Veterans on the Sheffield roster would not be overawed by the occasion in their first combat with Nottingham Panthers, on Saturday, in the Challenge Cup.

"A lot of these guys have played big games before," said Armstrong who has already told some of his new team-mates that they had to win these derby-style matches, the biggest on the UK hockey calendar.

Goaltending at the House of Steel has been a big positive for Sheffield, with Tomas Duba and Pavel Kantor battling it out for the starting spot.

"Even in practice, it is so hard to score on these guys," said Armstrong, who added Duba has had 20 years at the sharp end, professionally, and played all over the world.

And without Kantor, Steelers would not have beaten Budapest last Saturday, the forward suggested.