If Belfast Giants win the Elite League this season - as now seems likely - it will vindicate the surprise close-season job-switch made by Rob Dowd.
The skilled Teessider quit Sheffield Steelers despite winning the 2010-11 championship, hoping for greener grass in Northern Ireland.
His form there, particularly since coming back from mid-season injury, has been stupendous. He has scored 12 goals and 10 assists in his last 11 games. Overall, the 23-year-old left winger is Giants’ top scorer with 60 points from 41 games. So how do you solve a problem like Rob Dowd? Steelers need to know the answer before Friday’s showdown at Sheffield Arena.
And one of the men who will be charged with that duty is Steelers’ defenceman Mark Thomas.
He said: “Dowdy has made the jump in to the top-tier of British players, maybe even offensively he’s best out there. We all knew he’d reach this level, he was always a special talent. He makes the Giants tick, he isn’t their only threat, they have a lot of good offensive players but he is their go-to-guy.
“He has talent and work ethic, he out-works other players. He loves the battle and when you play against him it is a battle. He has a low centre of gravity which makes him hard to knock off the puck,” said Thomas.
“He has great speed, especially from standing still. He loves you to get close to him in the corners, he wants you to force him because in a blink of an eye he can spin away and beat you in that race to the net. We have to remember there is more to Belfast than Dowdy, Pelle, Peacock and Deniset are all quality, skilled and offensive forwards. But Dowdy has raised to a level that makes him a star of our league. Stop Dowdy and you have a better chance of beating the Giants.”
If Dowd decides to leave Belfast at the end of the season, he could be join his pal Ben O’Connor in Kazakhstan, where salaries are lavish.