Why haven’t Steelers won the Challenge Cup in the Elite League era?
They have won everything else - the League, the Play Offs, even the 20-20 Trophy headed to the Steelers cabinet.
On Sunday the Sheffield side have a must-win game against the Cardiff Devils in the Cup. The Steelers group contains Nottingham, Coventry, Hull and the Devils. It’s the group of death and it’s been made worse by the fact that Panthers have won all but one of their games and are running away with the group which means, in reality, that Sheffield, Coventry and Cardiff are fighting for the other semi-final place.
Needless to say, beating Cardiff at iceSheffield this weekend is critical. Pre-Elite League the Steelers owned the Challenge Cup, under Alex Dampier, Mike Blaisdell, even Don McKee got his hands on it. It seems in Sheffield we focus so much on the League that the Cup, subconsciously, takes a back seat. That’s crazy as there are only three competitions in the Elite league - the League, Play Offs and the Challenge Cup - so there shouldn’t be an excuse about priorities, especially in October when all cups are up for grabs.
A victory over the Devils will set the Steelers up nicely for games against Hull and Coventry. The cup might be Ryan Finnerty’s best chance of silver this season.
What a scrap we saw last Sunday between Colt King (Steelers) and Guy Lepine (Panthers).
Lepine has been regarded as the league’s toughest player for the last year - but that was until the Steelers new boy manhandled him like a rag doll and became the new ‘King’ of the league. These guys do the toughest job in pro sport. They are a different breed; these fights aren’t a side show, aren’t put on for fun.
These brutes fight for their team, fight to change a games momentum, fight to stand up for their team and I salute them. On Sunday, with his side 3-0 up, Lepine didn’t need to fight but the Steelers needed a change of direction and King wanted to get his team going.
A simple request was made by the Steelers No.45: ‘Are we going?’ The Panthers tough guy responded with a ‘Sure’ and when the puck was dropped these two man-mountains traded blows.
After the fight they exchanged glances, they nodded their heads as if to say ‘good job.’
Player-coach Ryan Finnerty blasted his side after the 4-2 defeat to Nottingham with the worst insult a hockey player can hear: “You were out worked in your own rink.” There is a code amongst hockey players. Some are more gifted, some skate better, and some shoot harder but no-one is ever supposed to out work you.
Hard work beats skill, is said so much in our sport, so those words from Finnerty would have degraded many a player sat in the Steelers dressing room. Let’s hope they try and prove their head coach wrong this Saturday in Nottingham and 24 hours later at Ice Sheffield.
Finnerty himself only knows how to play the hard way with 100 per cent effort.
Ten minutes into the warm-up on Sunday he put his back out and stumbled into the physio’s room in pain.
Most people would have thought their night was over, the early shower, the excuse of ‘can’t go tonight - the back - sorry lads;’ not Finnerty. Into the room he crawled with the instructions to the physio, ‘put it back in!’ Finnerty played and never missed a shift.
Shows what kind of leader Finner is....
Sheffield Steelers v Cardiff Devils; Ice Sheffield, Sunday (6pm).