Some people are born to lead and some are born to follow. Ryan Finnerty has proved over the last five days that he was born to lead.
In Coventry, last Sunday, with his side 3-1 down with 15 minutes left many thought the Steelers title hopes were wavering.
Finnerty needed to inject life into a team starting to show signs of fatigue after playing so many games in such a short period. He grabbed Blaze import Matic Krajl, he hacked and whacked, Krajl reacted, Finnerty dropped the gloves and pounded Coventry’s forward. Finnerty did it right in front of the Blaze bench – he was sending them a message that he wasn’t going down without a fight and he was showing his Steelers that the fight was still in him.
He was looking for a reaction and he got one! In the five minutes that he sat out his penalty the Steelers scored three times and led 4-3 by the time he returned to action.
Two days later and Finnerty was at it again against the arch enemy, Nottingham Panthers. Another fight, another star performance and most importantly a game-winning goal.
Other players got the message and reacted to it, unsung hero Mark Thomas for one. So many times overlooked, Thomas was a man mountain against the Panthers. Consistently the hardest hitting defensman on the side he knocked over the oncoming Panthers forwards, cleared the net in front of DeCaro and blocked shots. He was immense.
The Steelers coach will say he did nothing special but that’s one of the things that makes Finnerty so special, it comes naturally to him. He knows instinctively that this is a moment in a game where things need changing; that someone has to take the lead and he knows more often than not that the person to do that is himself.
I give credit to Neil Clark, I wondered how he would react coming back into a dressing room and a line up after so long away.
We needn’t have worried as Clark has been amazing on his comeback, scoring goals and also putting it on the line for his coach and his team.
The Steelers travel to Dundee tonight and to Nottingham on Saturday before returning to iceSheffield on Tuesday for a home game with the Fife Flyers. If they can come through those games with maximum points it will put further pressure on the Belfast Giants in the battle for title glory.