David Simms Sheffield Steelers ice hockey column: Surprise as Ben and Matt sign up

Ben O'Connor
Ben O'Connor

Well we have all been waiting on new arrivals being brought in to bolster the Steelers team but none of us expected the two most recent arrivals.

Well when I say no one, I expected one of them as Ben O’Connor and I had been speaking about a return to Sheffield for him over the past couple of weeks. How good was it to see him skate out in Orange again.

Matt Climie

Matt Climie

His arrival meant a defenseman would have to leave, more on that in a moment.

The second arrival shocked most of us, Matt Climie, an experienced goaltender, signed from Austria but a man known to and once scouted by our head coach Tom Barrasso, one of the best goalies ever to play the game – so he should know.

Jackson Whistle will start tonight’s game against Coventry, the starting job is his right now however competition is right on the door and it will be interesting to see how this pans out.

The beauty of Whistle is that the team can play, when at full strength 14 imports as out skaters.

With Climie it’s 13. Coach Barrasso knows that but perhaps with Ben O’Connor coming back into the team he is prepared to scuffle his import pack of cards.

Moving out is big George, Jiri Gula, perhaps the obvious choice with O’Connor’s arrival.

Big George hadn’t really done anything wrong, it was a numbers game and unfortunately his chair was removed when the music stopped. It’s a cruel world sometimes.

With the club releasing both Brendan Brooks and Chris Lawrence last week we are desperately looking for two quality offence minded forwards, as we have said in the weeks before, looking and finding are two completely different things.

There are players out there but not of the quality we need.

Ben’s arrival was just what we needed in many different ways.

Firstly knowing he was coming home put a smile on every face, but Ben is dynamic, something we haven’t been. We needed that star quality, that quick pass, that shot off the pass and right from the first shift he brought us that last weekend in the victory over Nottingham.

A mention too for Josh Pitt, whilst many around him have struggled to find the net Pitt has been a regular contributor to the ‘goals for’ column.

Josh has netted 10 times in 19 games for 16 points, double that of the next highest goal scorer Jordan Owens.

Most of the year he has skated alongside Justin Buzzeo and Stefan Della Rovere, last Saturday however he moved alongside Owens and Dowd in a more potent looking offensive line.

He has certainly been a major positive in the form of the new recruits.

Add to that Tanner Eberle, whilst he hasn’t got Pitt’s numbers he wasn’t brought here for that reason.

His skating and work ethic leads the way, penalty killing and energy generation. I like what Eberle brings, in fact exactly what Mike Blaisdell said he would.

I think we will see even more from Tanner when the reinforcements do arrive.

Like so many of the others forwards we have asked them to play a different role to that they were brought in for.

With the injuries, lack of goals and now lack of bodies it’s an all hands on deck situation. Imagine a 4th line of Westerling, Phillips and Eberle, they’d shut down most people’s first units. Roll on the day we can put out that line up.

I type this hours before the Coventry home game, then Dundee on Saturday. The schedule has been kind in terms of not over crowding games.

Coming off the back of Saturday’s victory, this might be the start of a spell that sees us climb out of the bottom half of the table and start challenging once again. All is far from being lost this early on.

Don’t forget Saturday night sees Dundee Stars inside the Arena – 7pm start.