Ben O’Connor has admitted last season’s title-winning team was vulnerable to strong-arm tactics - but said all that would change with the new-look line-up next season.
Coach Paul Thompson has added some uncompromising players, which should make the team more difficult to intimidate. Chief amongst the new boys is Zack Fitzgerald, one of the toughest players in the Elite League.
“He was a signing we needed to make” said the GB defenceman. “We did get bullied at times last year, I think his signing gives us a little respect. Last year Cullen Eddy and Dustin Kohn had to take that job on. That’s not their job but they did it because they cared for the team. This year we want Eddy logging big minutes and making a contribution on the ice, not having to scrap it out. He isn’t one dimensional either. He can play and log the minutes as well. A big signing for us.”
O’Connor has been discussing the line-up with team-mates Rob Dowd, Jonathan Phillips and Jason Hewitt.
“We are all excited about the new look side. From my view the D looks strong. Very mobile as well. Guys like Jace Coyle and Russ Moyer will add speed that’s for sure.” With Steelers involved in the Champions League, strength in depth will be crucial.
“We are all looking forward to the Champions League, four incredible games against two of Europe’s best sides. They will be well prepared for us, they will have been together of a long time and we have to make sure we are ready in every way for them.”
O’Connor added: “These teams are as good if not better than any that have been here before, the fans will enjoy watching them, their speed and their skill will be outrageous.
“I know we will be prepared and we will do ourselves proud against them both.”
O’Connor has been told by Thompson that he will be a key figure on the power play.
“Paul knows what I bring and likewise I know his style of coaching and what to expect from him. He wants me to be an offensive threat. I know I can do that well for him, I also know I have to respect my defensive duties as well though.”