The Steelers are in the final of the Challenge Cup – and so well deserved after beating Nottingham, Cardiff, Coventry and Manchester in the round robin to finish top of the group they then knocked out the existing cup Champions in the semi final on Tuesday by beating the Panthers 3-0 (5-1 on aggregate).
On Tuesday morning I took a call telling me that it was 99 per cent unlikely that Zack Fitzgerald would play, still recovering from an injury that kept him out of the weekend’s games against Nottingham and Edinburgh.
I walked into the physio room on Tuesday to see this man mountain of a man in agony at the hands of the medical team.
I arrived at my announcing position 15 minutes before the game to see his name on the game sheet. They will dress him not play him I thought. How wrong was I – ‘Fitzy’ was there battling, hitting, breaking up plays, making plays.
This was a night for men, this was a night for winners, this was a semi final against the enemy and there is no man you would want in your trenches more than him. Fit or injured, well or unwell this man doesn’t know how to give you less than 100 per cent. It is in his make up, his DNA.
Then in the second period he gets run, a hit to the head from Jeff Brown that resulted in the Panthers forward receiving a match penalty and an early shower.
Fitzy was down, hurt, the medic to his immediate attention and assistance off the ice – his night over we all thought, what a brave man.
Coach Paul Thompson said to me later that night: “I love that bloke – he is a warrior.”
On Tuesday Fitzy was joined by a whole team of warriors, a whole team of men. Men who stood up to the plate. Men like Markus Nilsson a player who doesn’t fight, but a player that when one of his team mates was in trouble on Tuesday just stood in there for his team, for his team mates. You gotta love that from Markus, I loved that.
Like the number 28 bus, you wait all year for a shut out and then two come at once, Ervins Mustukovs earned back to back shut outs against Edinburgh and then Nottingham. We love the Moose don’t we. He shows no emotion, though its a funny man. He just gets on with his job in a very Eastern European way. Cold face, no emotion, get the job done.
I was pleased for the defence. They have come under fire recently from certain on-line experts! Then on Tuesday they lose Christoffer Bjorklund who is returning to Sweden. This group though just digs in and delivers their best defensive performance of the campaign. It was outstanding.