These five Sheffield Steelers are leading the way

In a rough and tumble sport like ice hockey - and with the EIHL fixtures programme so packed - few players are lucky enough to always stay fit enough for selection for their team.
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It's not just about injuries getting in the way.

Players are called up for international duty or are sidelined by their coach, or for other reasons.

This weekend there will be a significant event for five Sheffield Steelers - the ever-presents will each clock up their 50th game.

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The league's top points scorer Mitchell Balmas, Kevin Tansey, Patrick Watling and Mikko Juusola, all first-year players, along with Daniel Ciampini, have not missed a beat since the season started at home to Coventry Blaze, in late September.

They will record their half-century of performances in a hugely important game that pits the league leaders against second-place Cardiff Devils, in Wales.

If the superfit-five can help the team towards a regulation time win, there will be a 16-point gap at the top of the division...which would pretty much look like game-over for Pete Russell's squad.

Captain Robert Dowd and team-mate Cole Shudra's Great Britain call-ups cost them the chance of being a 50-gamer on Saturday, and there are other Steelers who have only missed a single match so far: Josh Nicholls, Colton Saucerman, and Brian Diffley will be due to make their 50th performance for Sheffield at the Arena on Sunday, against the Blaze.

Kevin Tansey celebrates scoring against Manchester Storm Pic Hayley RobertsKevin Tansey celebrates scoring against Manchester Storm Pic Hayley Roberts
Kevin Tansey celebrates scoring against Manchester Storm Pic Hayley Roberts
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The success of most of the first-term players recruited by coach Aaron Fox last Summer, and after the campaign started, is certainly there for all to see.

Tansey and Juusola boast the team's best plus-minus statistics (+30.)

Balmas, Watling, Juusola, Nicholls, and biggest penalty minutes-taker Saucerman are all in the club's top eight points scorers, across both the League and Challenge Cup, and it wouldn't be a huge shock if the management had already started sounding out players of this quality about their potential availability for next year.

Then there is Dominic Cormier, who arrived at the club in November and has clocked more minutes than anybody since then.

Mitchell Balmas celebrates Pic Dean WoolleyMitchell Balmas celebrates Pic Dean Woolley
Mitchell Balmas celebrates Pic Dean Woolley
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Rivals Cardiff, meanwhile, lost further ground in the apparent one-horse title race, on Wednesday.

Nottingham Panthers ended their 12-game winning streak with a 5-4 home victory - Devils being unable to make their game-in-hand over Sheffield matter.