There's never anything 'friendly' about Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers - Bob Westerdale
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There's no such thing as a friendly in ice hockey - you can't really say these two teams have ever been on cordial terms.
But last season started off with similar exhibition fixtures which wooed the fans back from the Summer recess - and on the basis that "if it's not broke, don't fix it," that's the strategy this time round.
Steelers will travel to Nottingham on Saturday, August 27.
Last September they did the same thing and fans saw the antipathy between the clubs boil over with Panthers netminder Kevin Carr and Brendan Connolly falling out and Adrian Saxrud-Danielsen ploughing Simon Suoranta into the boards...an infringement which led to a one match suspension for the Norwegian Steeler.
Steelers had the last laugh winning 3-2.
But, as is sometimes the case, the losing team got their own back on the road the following night.
Panthers triumphed 5-3 in the first Arena home game, post Covid lockdown, in some 535 days.
The result aside, some 8,627 supporters jammed into the east end venue, one of the biggest attendances of the year.
The following weekend, Sheffield will entertain Coventry Blaze on September 3 and then play the return challenge match the night after.
That will give coach Aaron Fox a week of further preparation for the start of the EIHL campaign on September 10.
They would do well if they mirrored last year - the first competitive game was a thumping 8-3 win at Manchester Storm in the Challenge Cup.
Steelers' first competitive home game at that time fell against Cardiff Devils - with ex Steeler Ben O'Connor in the Welsh line up.
Sheffield have yet to announce what the price structure will be for the upcoming games.
Meanwhile, the current season is far from over for the Sheffield players in the Great Britain men's team.
On Saturday afternoon they take on the Czech Republic in the World Championships, 14:20 UK time, and could find it hard going against the team ranked seventh in the world.Sunday sees no respite, they face Norway (10:20) who are ranked 12th.
GB are ranked 18th. Top of the pile are Finland and Canada.
The International Ice Hockey Federation's own website predicts goals may be hard to find for GB, who were shut out three times in four warm up games.
Britain scored just 22 goals in their last two Worlds tournaments "and 13 of them came from Liam Kirk and Mike Hammond. Both of them are absent due to injury this time" reminded the IIHF.
Can GB end their goal drought? "Scott Conway might be the answer" suggests the website.
"The 27-year-old is the son of Kevin Conway, a naturalised GB star of the 1990s, and made his international debut in Olympic qualification in 2020. He scored twice in three games there and piled up 78 (33+45) points in 53 games for the title-winning Belfast Giants in this year’s Elite League. Conway’s cousin, Brett Perlini, could also emerge as a key figure on the British offence this season. The 31-year-old is one of the few players on the team to play outside of the UK this term, scoring 35 points in 37 games for Ringerike in Norway.
"As usual, GB’s first target is to avoid relegation. Thus, the game against Austria on 23 May looks like it will be vital to both country’s hopes of remaining in the top division. It’s fair to assume the Brits will be heavily overmatched against Czechia, Sweden, USA and Finland, but memories of some battling displays against Slovakia and Denmark last year give grounds to hope for competitive performances against Norway and Latvia."