Ice Hockey: Steelers will be the team to beat, says ex-star Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas - Sheffield Steelers v Belfast Giants 15/11/14

Mark Thomas - Sheffield Steelers v Belfast Giants 15/11/14

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Mark Thomas, the 10-season Steelers veteran, believes Sheffield will be difficult to dislodge as League champions if they stick to the principles of the past.

Thomas, who now plays for Manchester Phoenix, was an interested spectator at the Manchester Storm v Sheffield friendly last Wednesday, which the South Yorkshire team won 4-2.

He was impressed by the depth of the new look Sheffield side: “All the time I was at Sheffield, we prided ourselves on being strong defensively and I am sure they will do the same thing and be successful under Paul Thompson this season,” said the blue-liner.

“I know the players I played with at the back, Rod Sarich and Ben O’Connor, will be pushing the team on to defend the league title we won last year.

“The whole team looks solid, they can run four lines and it is good see Darrell Hay as a coach.

“Obviously O’Connor won’t be as effective as he was when I was next to him!

“But clearly they have a mobile D Corps and they will be good on the big surface.

“A few new players might be a bit shell shocked when they see Cardiff’s rink on Sunday - but at least they have played on the smaller rink at Altrincham now to help them prepare.”

Thomas said that of the new Steeler crop, Levi Nelson caught his eye,

“He stood out in the way he was such a good two-way player. He could skate well and always seemed to come back and help out the defence.”

“Hewy (Jason Hewitt) looked good on the penalty kill and I think having four lines means all the players get opportunities and rest at the same time,” Thomas added.

Steelers wrap up their Champions Hockey League programme tonight when they host Frolunda Gothenburg, the Swedish team that hammered them 9-1 in Sweden.

It will be interesting to see whether a slightly fitter and better prepared Sheffield side can live with one of Europe’s finest.

Meanwhile, Cardiff’s Leigh Salters has been banned from Saturday’s game against Manchester, but will be free to face Steelers.

RESULT

Friday 4th September

Challenge Cup Group A

Dundee Stars 3 Belfast Giants 0

FIXTURES

Saturday 5th September

Elite League

Fife Flyers v Coventry Blaze – 7.15pm

Nottingham Panthers v Dundee Stars – 7.00pm

Challenge Cup Group A

Edinburgh Capitals v Belfast Giants – 5.30pm

Challenge Cup Group B

Cardiff Devils v Manchester Storm – 7.00pm

Champions Hockey League

Braehead Clan v ERC Ingolstadt (Germany) – 7.00pm

Sheffield Steelers v Frolunda Gothenburg (Sweden) – 7.00pm

Sunday 6th September

Elite League

Coventry Blaze v Fife Flyers – 5.15pm

Manchester Storm v Edinburgh Capitals – 5.00pm

Challenge Cup Group B

Cardiff Devils v Sheffield Steelers – 6.00pm