Simms on Steelers: Cardiff clash could be title-decider

Nobody likes having problems but sometimes some problems are nice to have.

Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 3:38 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th January 2020, 11:05 am
Eric Meland gets a farewell hug from Anthony DeLuca.

For weeks Aaron Fox’s problems have been injuries, trying to put together a full roster whilst staying on top of the EIHL as the Cardiff Devils breath down upon them.With every player returning to the line up another one seemed to disappear.Well at the end of last week it looked like there was an easing in that situation. Both Aaron Johnson and James Bettauer with back on the ice training and the even better news is that they will be both be available for selection moving forward.

Now Fox’s problems don’t end there, far from it. Now with a full squad Aaron will have two additional imports, that’s two healthy scratches for each game.

It could have been worse, the Steelers were carrying three extra imports after their recent injury woes. On Sunday though the club confirmed that Eric Meland would be leaving and heading back to the States. Eric was always going to retire at the end of this season and go to Dentistry School, he is a bright lad.

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Meland was also beat up, playing injured and approached the club on Saturday.

His case was that he needed rest, he knew the club would shortly be about to release an import as no club carried three spares. So he threw himself onto the sword, release me and not one of my team mates. How selfless was that?Bodies are returning at just the right time. A cup semi-final on Wednesday, a road game against the title favourites on Saturday, home to third place Belfast on Sunday.

My honest view is that the game on Saturday is as close to a title decider as you can get in January.

Steelers lead the league but Cardiff have games in hand, if they were to win those games they would be five points clear, should they beat the Steelers on Saturday that would be seven.

No team is pulling seven points back from Cardiff in two months. Steelers have played some of their best hockey against Cardiff this year though are yet to beat them. Saturday is a must-win.

As many of you know I still live in the 1970’s and 80’s. This modern wishy washy world drives me mad. I am not a lover of the “New School” way and much prefer the rather more blunt and direct “Old School” approach.

Therefore I have a soft spot for Tanner Eberle, the closest thing to “Old School” that perhaps exists in Steelerland – though I will throw in Brendan Connolly into that pool as well.

Tanner was hurt in Belfast on Friday and ruled out of Sunday’s game against Glasgow.

However, he arrived early to the Arena on Sunday, pulled on a pair of shorts, laced up his skates and marched to the ice with physio Paul Teather and fitness coach Danny Mawer. Head coach Aaron Fox saw what was happening and followed them onto the bench.

Up and down the ice skated Tanner, stop, start, circle, forwards, backwards. He skated back to the bench, didn’t look anyone in the eye and just said “I’m good”.

Eberle was back in the line. His team however were 3-1 down and need of some energy, an adrenalin boost.

Up steps Tanner, he dances to Clan defencemen and scores the goal of the week in the Elite league.

Steelers never looked back, from 1-3 they scored six without reply to beat Glasgow 7-3.

Last season Eberle was a bit part player in a broken side, now he has become almost irreplaceable.

Every night he gives you the same output, he plays at 100%, on the edge, finishes hits and scores goals we would have never imagined 12 months ago. Watching him play is a pleasure, having him on our team is fantastic. He is a heartbeat and whilst he doesn’t attract the sexy attention of say the goal scoring line of Connolly, Vallerand and DeLuca his importance is just as great.

See you all on Sunday folks, Steelers v Belfast Giants at a family friendly 4pm face off – enough time to get the kids home, bathed and in bed in time for school the next morning.