Intense training sessions hint at competitive season for Sheffield Steelers

Sam Jones swinging against Nottingham (Photo: Submitted)
Sam Jones swinging against Nottingham (Photo: Submitted)

Sheffield host Coventry Blaze on Saturday night before travelling to Guildford Flames on Sunday.

Fox will be demanding the puck-battles and hard forechecking that successfully moved from practices to the four pre-season games will be an ongoing theme into the regular campaign.

Certainly, nobody can argue that Steelers didn't compete hard in the challenge games against Nottingham Panthers and Cardiff Devils, winning three out of four.

Sam Jones v Riley Brandt (Photo: Submitted)
Sam Jones v Riley Brandt (Photo: Submitted)

An example of this was defenceman Sam Jones' bullish behaviour when he felt opposition players were taking liberties.

The Great Britain player had scraps in both the home games, his last one against Devils' wrecking ball Riley Brandt.

Fox said Jones was a "big strong boy" who had taken exception to his opponent.

"That Brandt runs around, he finishes his hits and frustrates guys and it was one of those that Jonesy said: 'Enough was enough.'

"We have a high compete level during the week, it has been physical, there has been no fisticuffs thrown, but he is competing hard."

Jones admitted he hadn't wanted to fight in an exhibition game, especially against a smaller opponent.

He was more impressed by the way the general Steelers' defensive corps shut down opponents in the corners and were "heavy on sticks" in front of goal.

Fox also had praise for another Brit, Cole Shudra.

The utility skater, who made the leap in standards from NIHL team Leeds Knights, played "very good" in the home match against Cardiff last weekend, sharing offensive duties on the fourth line with Brandon Whistle, Kameron Kielly, and Mikko Juusola.

Fox said Shudra was an example of a skater who played responsibly and had bought into the system.

The following night, Shudra moved back to the blue line after Kevin Tansey had been thrown out for charging.

There, he did "really well" said the coach.

New import Colton Saucerman's passing range also attracted attention, especially some of his long transitional passes.

"He sees the ice really well, we've been talking about smart simple plays and he has been excellent, I think it took him two or three practices to get his feet wet and now he has found his game" said the coach.

Wednesday night saw Coventry conclude their pre-season with a 4-2 victory at Manchester Storm.

They obviously are a team that can finish strongly, they scored three times in the last five minutes.