David Simms’ Sheffield Steelers column: Place in top four has to be target of ice hockey team  

Sheffield Steelers player Justin Buzzeo in action against Cardiff Devils
Sheffield Steelers player Justin Buzzeo in action against Cardiff Devils

Justin Buzzeo returns to the Steelers line up this weekend, a welcome boost for Friday and Saturday’s double header in Scotland.

Steelers are still searching for their 14th import, whilst that search has come close on a couple of occasions that final position is still waiting to be filled.

Last Sunday saw import goalie Matt Climie make his first start. He produced an impressive performance in a comfortable 6-1 road win in Dundee.

It came 24 hours after the Steelers had lost a shoot out at the Arena against Guildford. There are two words I didn’t expect to type this season “Shoot” and “Out”

The 6-5 loss to Guildford was a tough one to take, the team played well enough to win the game but errors cost the Steelers as we gifted the Flamers too many opportunities and goals.

The positive though was that after struggling for so long to score, we did find the back of the net 11 times in 6 periods.

That 14th import is so important on many levels, once it arrives it will give the club the option of playing four lines with Climie in goal, right now they only have that opportunity if Whistle plays.

Also the club can use an experienced centre on that fourth unit to police Messrs Whistle (Brandon) and Brown as they give the three units above a breather.

The whole Climie – Whistle debate is intriguing and it will be interesting how it ends.

All of us who thought Cardiff were going to win the league by February have had a kick up the rear end.

Five losses in 8 games mean that Belfast, who beat the Devils in Cardiff at a canter last Sunday, now seem to be the bookies favourites.

We haven’t seen Belfast yet so it’s hard to tell, but what a run they have had.

Cardiff have got a little older and their goaltending hasn’t been as A1 as it has been over the last couple of years.

A Champions League backlash? Maybe, the same happened to us a couple of years ago. Right after the CHL games we were unplayable and winning games with ease. Then the post CHL blip, at around the same time as well.

I still wouldn’t bet against the Devils but tip your hat to Belfast.

I know we can’t talk sitting in 8th place but it is good to see the same old Nottingham. Different people, same club. Stanley Cup contenders in September and October and then…

The victory in Guildford was what we call a “Must Win” for the Panthers or the pressure there, the only other club where the pressure resembles what we have here in Sheffield, would have started to mount.

You have to give Fife credit, the combination of Dutiume and Hutchins is certainly the Clough and Taylor of the Elite league. Both of them bring different strengths, they obviously get on well and are doing a terrific job.

The question mark remains depth and if they can keep this up for 32 weekends. I’m not so sure they can to win it, but a top 3, most certainly.

At the start of the season our target was Cardiff and a championship. So, we perhaps to have re-set those ambitions. A top 4 end to the season and a better play off draw has to be the target right now and that is certainly achievable.

There seems stability at the helm and in the line-up. We have more firepower to come in, a competition for places and a club united. If 2018 doesn’t end the way we had hoped a few months ago, I’m a confident chap about what 2019 will bring. The Steelers are getting better every weekend and that is all we could ask.

Couple of things to end with. Kids and Christmas. Every kid should have a present at Christmas, shouldn’t they?

So we have joined up with Hallam FM’s appeal “Mission Chrsitmas” and at our home game against Coventry on the 15th December we will hold our famous “Teddy Bear Toss”. You know the score, you buy a teddy bear, put it in a plastic bag and then when the Steelers score you throw it onto the ice. The “Mission Chrsitmas” people then come and scoop them all up and distribute to those in need. A great cause and something you support every year.

This year though let’s just make it huge, bigger and better than ever before – thanks.

Finally, you will have seen that former head coach Paul Thompson has taken over in the Schwenningen Wild Wings in the DEL. In fact I’m heading over to watch his first game on Thursday, back Friday, it will by my first game in the top German league and I’m excited not only to see my mate but to also see how close our league is to the top division in Germany.

No home hockey for us this weekend. Good luck Steelers in Glasgow on Friday and Fife on Saturday. Bring those points home boys. Now folks, go buy your bears in advance and we will see you next Sunday against Manchester at the Arena.