David Simms Sheffield Steelers column: Giants games gives chance to see how far ice hockey team has progressed

Steelers experienced player Aaron Johnson
Steelers experienced player Aaron Johnson

The new look Steelers will face their biggest test this weekend, with not one but two home fixtures against Belfast Giants.

The Steelers enter the weekend on the back of four straight victories and 7 in the last 8.

With respect though, these wins have been against the mid table pack we would expect to beat, this weekend is proper, against the big boys, the league leading Giants.

Don’t get me wrong those previous victories came when confidence was at a low and the team wasn’t at full strength.

The boys battled hard and through adversity, now though is a time that we have to see just how much progression we have made.

Fingers crossed Aaron Johnson will be back this weekend after two weeks out.

His experience against a prolific Giants offence will be required.

Belfast have scored more goals than any other side (83) whilst conceding the fewest (40) – tests don’t come much bigger than this.

In Tyler Beskorowany the Giants have a superstar of the league, conceding less than 2 goals a game on average.

If the Steelers are going to be successful this weekend expect tight, aggressive hockey but also disciplined defensive hockey as we have to limit the Giants offensive chances.

Beskorowany was a surprise summer signing. Last year he played in Edinburgh, previously though his resume stood out as a top, top goalie.

Injury blighted his career and the mental scars after a year with the Capitals seem to have disappeared. Right now he is looking like a league all-star and we are only just leaving November.

Saying that the Giants will be facing the second hottest side in the land and two goaltenders of our own in fine form.

New signing Matt Climie has three wins behind him whilst Jackson Whistle will be desperate to start against his former club and the team he backstopped to a Challenge Cup title last year.

The arrival of Eric Neiley last weekend ensured the Steelers could play four lines, last week they exposed Manchester, a three line team but this week it will be four against four.

Sides can’t play two games in a weekend full out with just three units.

I believe the Steelers do have the fittest and strongest line up in the league. Danny Mawer has always worked our boys hard and since the arrival of Tom Barrasso I’m told that training has stepped up even further.

We’ve seen that in recent weeks, the Steelers have come back and finished games the stronger, as I said earlier though, this weekend is against the best opposition we are likely to see in a while.

In previous weeks we have been taken up with coaching adversity, players injuries and a bad run of form. We have perhaps forgotten that there has been some very good positives, the form of the Eberle, Phillips and Westerling line for example.

What about the goals of Josh Pitt, they have almost gone unnoticed.

Pitt has been an excellent addition to the team scoring a joint, league leading 13 goals to date. Also, Pitt has scored those goals at a time when Steelers were struggling offensively and not on the club’s top line.

The power forward took up the reins and invited his team mates to jump on his back.

Pitt now has some offensive assistance with the likes of Dowd, O’Connor, Matheson and Buzzeo chipping in. This needs to be a weekend of all weekends for the Steelers with every player, coach and fan all on the same page, if that happens then the Belfast Giants might be in for a tougher time than they had hoped for.

I’m taking the Steelers to take points this weekend, 2 definitely, all 4, well stranger things have happened.