Which team will be fired up most by Sheffield Steelers' banner ceremony?

When the Challenge Cup winning banner is unfurled at Sheffield Arena on Sunday afternoon, it will be interesting to see if the ceremony has a clear motivational effect on Steelers or the visiting side Cardiff Devils.

Friday, 24th September 2021, 1:33 pm
Sheffield Steelers team group 2021-22

Sheffield beat Cardiff in March 2020 in Wales to lift the trophy, with 1,500 Steelers fans in the Welsh club's rink.

The banner raising will be a stirring memory for the Sheffield players who took part - and re-open old wounds for the Devils.

But Sheffield coach Aaron Fox doesn't think Cardiff, with a new coach Jarrod Skalde on the bench, will feed off that moment as an extra incentive.

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"They won't need that as motivation," said Fox. "The opening regular-season game for both teams is motivation enough. We can also use it as motivation; bringing back good feelings and memories and play off that high."

Tanner Eberle, who played in the 4-3 victory, accepts the Cardiff side will be pumped up and also wonders if the fact they have so many new players will be a factor.

"They don't have too many returning guys over there so I am excited to see what their roster is going to be like," he said.

"But we may have a little bit of an edge on players coming back this year, which is a big thing."

Sheffield Steelers coach Aaron Fox

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Tanner Eberle doesn't feel under pressure at Sheffield Steelers

He said he was happy that there were so many players returning from previous seasons to Sheffield.

"Everyone knows their roles and we'll mix in the new guys as best we can and going forward I think we will have a good start."

One player who has switched line-ups is Ben O'Connor.

He left the club, for whom he'd played 380 times, in uncomfortable circumstances.

Eberle said of the loss of the GB mainstay from their ranks: "At the end of the day it comes down to numbers and money a lot of the time.

"I am not sure what happened there, he is a good offensive player so we know we have to get on the forecheck on them and I think Cardiff has a lot of good, skilled defence so I think the forecheck is going to be the key part against them."

The forward said new players to his own squad would be informed of the value of the Challenge Cup tournament- Steelers start its defence on Saturday night at Manchester Storm.

"It's not just a nothing tournament. We know how fun it can be,

"We are trying to defend that for sure. Unfortunately, we have to play Cardiff the next night!

"Hopefully we can take care of business as quick as we can, I guess, and try and stay injury-free obviously for Cardiff the next day."

Steelers' coach Aaron Fox told an EIHL press conference that the pandemic lockdown had the welcome side effect of being able to spend more time with his children aged eight and 13.

He said they were a competitive pair and were "shattered" by the challenge match loss to Nottingham Panthers last Sunday.

"Right now you just can't take anything for granted in life and I am happy to come to the rink every day - I love my job, love the group of guys we have here."

Goalie Rok Stojanovic, who is on trial at the club, remains an option for Steelers if they want to blood starting goaltender Barry Brust in gently.

Stojanovic has an "open-ended" deal at Sheffield, they say. Puck-injured Daine Todd is the only doubt for the weekend.