Competition has just got a whole lot more fierce for the top offensive duties on Sheffield Steelers’ team.
The club got their season off to a damp squib of a start, losing 5-2 at Nottingham Panthers in the Challenge Cup.
There were defensive errors, breakdowns and turnovers you would perhaps associate from a side with 16 new players on the roster. But it was offensively that Sheffield failed most in terms of chemistry, particularly on the Power Play.
And the failure to get to the scoring areas and pressure the goalie is the factor coach Paul Thompson will apply himself on today.
Sheffield only scored one goal in their last three hours of pre-season play - but that was against top-class Swedish opposition. It is more concerning they couldn't execute when they had a man advantage against the rivals that matter most.
In fairness, Steelers hit the post three times and the otherwise-impressive Josh Pitt failed to convert a penalty shot against a hot goaltender in Michael Garnett. But Thompson said: "Our Power Play didn't create much, and the difference between the teams was that their's did. Our's wasn't direct enough. It was a bit 'perimeterish.' A couple of guys didn't do much, (creating on the PP) and they will find there is pressure now from others for the spot.
“We had chances but were just not as clinical as they were."
Panthers dominated the first 12 minutes, with Robert Farmer putting Notts ahead.
Davey Phillips' ejection for a check to the head was accompanied by a five minute penalty and Mark Hurtubise capitalised at 20;26. Steelers, though, went on to have the best period of the game and deserved Pitt's goal.
For the third consecutive period, Panthers beat Jackson Whistle early on, a fine wrist shot from Tommy Hughes. Panthers punished Sheffield with two further strikes from Jaynen Rissling and Brett Perlini, before Aaron Johnson scored his first Steeler goal at 57.40.
Thompson felt the scoreline did not reflect the game. but added: "That's what happens if you don't take your chances."
Saturday night's loss means it's advantage Rich Chernomaz at the start of the series between Britain's biggest rivals.
Chernomaz was gracious in victory, suggesting the sides were "pretty evenly matched."
He had promised Panthers fans that results against Sheffield would be different from last year, and the three-goal win was his first return on that statement.
Thompson, though, said it was vital for his team to look ahead to Saturday September 29, when they get the chance to get even with Panthers at Sheffield Arena.
Next weekend, though, Steelers start their League programme with back to back games against Mlton Keynes Lightning.