Simmsey column: New Year wins should quieten critics

Levi Nelson makes friends in Manchester

Levi Nelson makes friends in Manchester

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Last week we spoke about how a few misguided individuals had done just that after the two Christmas defeats to Nottingham.

Well last weekend a depleted Steelers side showed their championship credentials with two victories over Manchester Storm.

One of those roster absences was of course self inflicted after coach Paul Thompson ran out of patience with Jesse Schultz. Despite scoring almost a point a game Schultz’s performances hadn’t produced what had been expected, add to that the Steelers don’t lose two games to Nottingham Panthers over Christmas without consequences.

On Saturday the Steelers squeezed out a nervous victory. It was a game that also saw new injuries to Messrs Fretter, Armstrong and most importantly Mathieu Roy.

The return game in Manchester on New Year’s Day promised to be a difficult one against a Storm side that had recently beaten both Cardiff and Nottingham. Steelers arrived without Valdix, Fretter and Roy and Armstrong skated against the advice of the medics.

Armstrong delivered with a great goal, Roy assisted and even double shifted during the game, the grimaces showing on his face every shift. Steelers lost Yared Hagos after a high stick cut him open. Seven stitches in an eye wound for the Swedish centre.

I’m nervous every time we are in Manchester. The rink there much smaller, the game much quicker. A real advantage to the home team, a little like Cardiff was for years. Never however was the game in doubt on Sunday. Steelers were rock solid. A 2-0 first period, a scoreless second session and a 2-1 final period ensured a comfortable 4-1 win.

Two goals for Mike Ratchuk, equally as important an inspired performance. He was unplayable, what a talent he is when firing on all cylinders. Is he the long term replacement for Schultz? Why not, we have another six defencemen. Ratchuk does offer us something we haven’t got. Stunning hands, silky skills and a tremendously fast skater. He makes you move forward to the edge of your seat.

Since moving up front only Roy has scored more than Ratchuk – think on that one.

As good as the result was I was more impressed with the grit and character in Manchester.

A quick word on Liam Kirk, the 17 year old Steelers apprentice.

A lot is being said on the lad, a great video buzzing around social media showing his fantastic goals.

This leads to a call from the fan base for more ice time.

A few things on young Kirk, we love him, on and off the ice. The players, the coaches, the staff and of course the fans. Why wouldn’t we – what a talent.

However Kirky is still maturing.

Playing in the EPL he may look and play like a man but at the Elite level he is still a 17 year old boy.

One we have a responsibility to protect. His time will come and trust me it will come quickly. His training with the Steelers and his spot shifts, like in Manchester will add to his development. Throwing him in right now will just get him killed by 6’3 240lbs monsters. Anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong.

Kirk will shortly be a star. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves for the sake of the tremendous young lad as much as anything lets keep going as we are. That’s the right way.