Sheffield Steelers ready for Danish test against Aalborg Pirates in Continental Cup

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If Sheffield can claim a victory over Aalborg Pirates on Friday night, they will be taking a huge stride towards qualifying towards the final round of the Continental Cup.

The Danish host team is thought to be the biggest threat in a weekend series also featuring Olimp Riga (Latvia) and HK Gomel (Belarus.)

Steelers' coach Aaron Fox has spent much of this week researching Aalborg's capabilities.

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Pirates, like Steelers, are top of their own domestic division, having won 14 of 19 games.

Fox knows only too well how one of their players can turn a game in seconds - he has worked with former international forward Patrick Bjorkstrand before, in the KHL.

"He played under me in Zagreb, a really, really good player," said Fox.

"I think they (Aalborg) are first-place right now, have a couple of guys high in the scoring list, they are going to play a fast up-tempo game, be defensively responsible, definitely I would say out of the three teams we are playing, they are the best, for sure."

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Sheffield have beaten them in three previous games and have no reason to feel they come from an inferior league.

Steelers v Aalborg at iceSheffield Pic Dean WoolleySteelers v Aalborg at iceSheffield Pic Dean Woolley
Steelers v Aalborg at iceSheffield Pic Dean Woolley

Fox believes while they have a different style in Denmark their general status is not above the EIHL.

"It will be a good test" he said.

The other opponents will puck-possession orientated and high on skill. "If you give them time and space, they will make you pay for sure. There is not an easy game in that tournament."

Friday's rivals are a young team - five years junior, on average, compared to Fox's team, which has just been bolstered by the injury-cover signing of 36-year-old Andreas Valdix.

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Davey Phillips welcomes Aalborg to Sheffield in a previous encounter.Davey Phillips welcomes Aalborg to Sheffield in a previous encounter.
Davey Phillips welcomes Aalborg to Sheffield in a previous encounter.

Aalborg play out of the 5,000-capacity Bentax Ice Arena, in the Jutland region.

If Sheffield eventually finishes top or second in Group F, they will qualify for the final round in January 7-9.

There they would face two of the winners of Group E, Saryarka Karaganda (Kazakhstan,) HK Poprad (Slovakia,) Cracovia Krakow (Poland) and Asiago Hockey (Italy.) That group will be competing in Poland this weekend.

Fox recognises that while winning in Europe can be taxing in terms of resources, victory or sound performances can also supercharge performances when they return to the Elite League.

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Aaron Fox.Aaron Fox.
Aaron Fox.

"I am a competitive guy and we are going in there this weekend to win hockey games.

"We will put a game plan together that we will try to execute and I will coach to win."

The EIHL has clarified the position on the Valdix signing at Sheffield, confirming that he could potentially join the club for the full year.

"As the IIHF Continental Cup falls outside of Elite League competition, Valdix will not count as an 'official change' used by the Steelers. He will be, however, ineligible to play in EIHL competition unless a change is used or a player is placed on Injured Reserve" they said.

Clubs can register a maximum of 28 players during this season.