David Simms Sheffield Steelers ice hockey club column: Injured Neiley has words of praise for coach Barrasso
The Challenge Cup hasn't been the Steelers best friend in recent years, a couple of finals and a few more semis but that elusive prize of the trophy has escaped us.
Maybe this year things will be different, maybe the quarter final games against Guildford last night, which ended 4-4 and the second leg away next Wednesday have come at the right time? Maybe this is our year.
Last night's first leg at the Arena was been played with a couple of guys down as both Eric Neiley and Davey Phillips were still missing from the line up injured.
Consistency remains an issue '“ two weeks ago the Steelers played their best weekend of the year against Belfast but followed it up with defeat in Glasgow and a last minute escape against the Dundee Stars.
Improvement has been made under the Barrasso tenure but he still needs more help with the offensive output.
The Neiley injury is a massive blow as Eric would have certainly helped in that department, he could be out until the end of January which is why the club's search for more reinforcements continue. It has to, the balance still isn't quiet right
Speaking with Eric earlier this week you could see he was totally gutted, after finally getting the move he craved from MK to Sheffield to be hit with a freak injury.
He told me: 'It was great to be back and then this.'
Neiley has been impressed with his new coach.
'He is very direct but he engages you, you don't lose him at all. He doesn't stumble and he is clear in the message he is getting across.
'He knows his systems and he believes in them.
'I've loved my short time on the ice with him and that makes it even more frustrating now I'm not out there skating.'
Steelers move on to an important league game this Saturday against Coventry '“ it's our charity night when all fans bring a soft toy or bear, then when we score our first goal you throw them onto the ice.
Hallam FM's Mission Christmas is our chosen charity, they aim to ensure that every kid in the local area this Christmas gets a gift. That's not a big thing to ask is it? So come along on Saturday and bring your bear.
Talking of charity, you will have seen that I have joined Ben O'Connor, Jonathan Phillips, Robert Dowd, Arron Johnson and Tanner Eberle in having our heads shaved on Saturday 29th December after the game against Manchester '“ it's all in aid of Prevent Breast Cancer, this is the chosen charity of Vicki Thomas, wife of Steelers legend Mark.
Vic has breast cancer right now and is undergoing treatment. She has already raised Â£13,000 for Prevent Breast Cancer and in the first 24 hours of our Just Giving page going live we raised a further Â£1,000 '“ I'm sure the Steelers head shave will top Â£5,000 when we are finished '“ it better.
The club, the players, myself are lucky that we are in the position that we can do something and raise a few quid because of the exposure we can generate '“ hey, not everyone has a column in the Sheffield Telegraph do they.
We saw last week when we had young Aiden walk onto the ice and ring the bell after beating cancer, or 3-year-old William, the Steelers fan who was in a coma one week and in the dressing room high fiving the boys the next the power of sport and the Steelers.
As a club we try and do the right thing, we might have a rather direct approach to it but we get things done and make a difference.
For the next few weeks we turn our attention to the ice and the important games coming up, games that will define the season, that Christmas series for example against Nottingham.
Last year we won both games 4-0 and 5-0, it would be unrealistic to expect the same score lines this year, though it would be nice.
This Christmas the Steelers host the Panthers on the 27th December with the Boxing Day game being played in Nottingham. Tickets are selling incredibly well for the 27th, a regular 7pm face off on that Christmas night.
We've sold out the last two Boxing Day games and are confident of doing the same on the 27th '“ nothing makes your Christmas like beating the Panthers so make sure you join us.