If you thought Sheffield Steelers’ Elite League-winning ice hockey team of last year was hot-stuff...just wait for next season.
Zack Fitzgerald believes he will be part of a “complete team” when they step out on to the pad for the 2016-7 season. There are a lot of changes - but the American and his team-mates believe it will be an upgraded unit.
“This year I am confident, with what all the boys are saying. I can’t wait to get going, we will have a complete team this year” he said. “We have got the goalie, the defence, I can’t even begin to tell you how many guys we have got who can put the puck in the net and can play the game physical and hard and fast. I feel bad for anybody else!”
‘Fitzy’ and Ben O’Connor are the only two survivors of the defence from last season’s squad. Yet the 6ft 1ins enforcer thinks the defence was one of the best in the league last year. There was no fault attached to those that had left the club, he said. “That’s just the way of the game. Paul (coach Thompson) has done a great job recruiting and I am excited. A lot of the guys résumés are exciting; I can’t wait to get going.”
Fitzgerald said he thought the ‘D’ would be well balanced. “We have defensive and offensive-minded guys. Get both out at the same time and one guy can kind of let loose a little bit more and one stays back. I have always enjoyed staying home. If I get an offensive kind of guy he can wheel every now and then and I’ll jump up every now and then when I see it, but that’s a rare occasion.”
As for the other surviving d-man, Ben O’Connor, the import said: “It’s good that we have him, every other team in the league would want him. It is great to have a guy that is a top two defenceman. He can play the game throughout and he’s working hard this Summer.”
Fitzgerald, 31, said he thought the team were affected, occasionally, last season by goaltending issues.
But the return of Ervins Mustokovs now brought a different, more secure dimension.