Sheffield Steelers: beaten but unbowed

Men against boys? Not so, says Steelers coach Paul Thompson. Here Tyler Mosienko comes up short against a JYP player
Men against boys? Not so, says Steelers coach Paul Thompson. Here Tyler Mosienko comes up short against a JYP player

Money talks in ice hockey just as much as it does in football and other sports.

Sheffield Steelers’ player budget is a few hundred thousand pounds, which is chicken feed when you compare it to the millions in the Scandinavian pay rolls.

So what is the point of taking part in competitions like the Champions Hockey League, where you are on a hiding to nothing?

A hiding is what Steelers got on Thursday in Gothenburg, Sweden. It was nothing short of a (9-1) horror story.

But Saturday’s 0-3 reverse at JYP Jyvaskyla’s Synergia-Areena provided another, more encouraging perspective.

We already knew that Steelers - and the rest of the EIHL for that matter - trail behind the swish, free-skaters of our European partners. But for a fair portion of Saturday’s game, Sheffield held and even tested the crack Finnish SM-liiga team.

Ultimately, the icemen of northern Europe were too hot to handle for a South Yorkshire side that has not been together a fortnight yet. Over 180 minutes, Sheffield couldn’t master two teams with shorter, crisper passes, faster skaters, deeper benches and fitter athletes. That’s a frightening combination when you are the other team in the mix.

JYP haven’t won their domestic league for three years but they are still at the top end of Euro hockey sides.

They dispensed with Steelers with three unanswered goals. Joonas Nattinen’s top shelf effort was too quick for Tyler Plante to get anything on, fourth line centre Valtteri Hotakainen stroked home number two and Tuomas Pihlman had all the time in the world to tap past the grounded Plante two minutes from the end of the second period.

Job done for the Finns. And you could mount an argument that they wrapped up for an early night after the third went in. But the truth is likely to be nearer that Sheffield, despite their lack of training time together, more than held their own in the last period. And their fitness and determination in Sunday’s last third - as opposed to Thursday’s - is grounds for optimism, in League terms.

Coach Paul Thompson said it was a “100 per cent better display” in Finland. “The last period was 0-0 and we pushed hard. Our fitness was excellent and we finished the stronger of the two teams. It took us 10 minutes to get our legs going after that it was an even game.

“They have a lot of quick players and size and I was told they have a five million Euro budget - we were supposed to be the whip-arses of the group.

“But we have another game under our belt now and JYP must come to Sheffield on Sunday. A Swedish agent told me that in the ‘80s Sweden were getting beaten 10-1 by Russia. Look how they have come on. In football terms would FC Bruge turn down a chance to play Barcelona? Our club will be a lot better from this experience.”


Saturday 22nd August

Cardiff Devils 7 Brest (France) 1

Champions Hockey League

ERC Ingolstadt (Germany) 5 Braehead Clan 2

JYP Jyvaskyla (Finland) 3 Sheffield Steelers 0

Sunday 23rd August

Cardiff Devils 4 Brest (France) 2