Simms on Steelers: League champions? I've become a believer!
Do you believe? Has the time come that we can pinch ourselves and say “We are in this race for real?”
I think it has you know.
Sure, we have led the league all season but for such a long time we have played so many more games than the chasing pack.
Just ten days ago if Cardiff for example had won their games in hand they would have been seven points above us.
Today if they win those games they would lead us by just one.
How over the past few months could we genuinely consider ourselves challengers when we had two, three or sometimes four senior players sat in the stands with long term injuries?
Aaron Johnson, our former NHL D man, has had two eight-week lay-offs already this season.
Our best British forward and goal scoring machine Robert Dowd is out, maybe for the season.
No team could realistically have those setbacks and still challenge let alone win it, could they?
One weekend alone hasn’t made a difference even though that weekend had us win in Cardiff and at home to Belfast, two huge results.
Add to that Cardiff losing the night after in Dundee, that all made us feel a little better as well didn’t it?
No, it’s not that one weekend, it’s the concerted effort of a whole club from owner, coach, captain down over the last two months that has swung my opinion from “Surely not” to “We are in with a shout here”.
Last Sunday we took apart a great Belfast side with Dowd, DeLuca and Connolly sat in the stands, that’s 45 goals and 109 points so far this season.
In their place, well up stands the captain Jonathan Phillips. A man who started the season expecting a checking role on a 4th line.
Over the past few weeks he has found himself on the first, second and third units, scoring huge goals, killing penalties and just leading like he has never led before.
On his wing last Sunday James Bettauer. First weekend back after an eight-week lay-off for a broken hand. Not only did James play well he was asked to play up front and on defence over the two games.
To win a league you need depth and that’s something the Steelers seem to have, guys who can move up and down the line up and still do their jobs.
Lucas Sandstrom has been immense recently, scoring big goals like he did in the cup semi-final in Glasgow and last Saturday in Cardiff.
But with Lucas it’s more than that, he kills, he plays on the PP, he brings the Steelers some sandpaper finish.
Janne Kolehmainen too, he has added some proper grit, he plays a heavy game and a smart one as well.
This Steelers team has grown and developed though the season, does it have enough to get over the line? Well who knows but right now would you bet against them?
This Saturday they face the next big test. The Manchester Storm. Fighting themselves for a play off birth.
They have recently taken points off the big guns including Cardiff.
The battle between Steelers goalie (this week’s Elite League player of the week) Tomas Duba and Storms nettie Matt Ginn will be so good to watch, who comes out on top of that battle might just decide where the points go.
It’s a 7pm face off at Fly DSA Arena, another 6500 crowd is expected – there is a momentum around the Steelers, it’s a great bus to be on, you should jump on board – see you there.