Sheffield Steelers: Finding The Net
Whereas the NHL has its franchise players, those whose faces adorn the walls of their arenas, in the EIHL the turnover of players is pretty constant, one or two year contracts being the norm. As such, the start of each EIHL season becomes a guessing game of who will play on which lines. Given how little time there is between getting the team together and the start of the season, the opening few games become a trial by error of just how those players will come together.
Gerad Adams joined the Sheffield Steelers midway through last season, turning an inherited team that was struggling into one that brought home a Playoff title. This season he gets to build his own team, and with less than four weeks to go until the opener, the fans are still waiting for the final pieces to be signed.
The Steelers line-up for this season sees some big changes. Out of the ten forwards currently signed to the team, only four are returning from the previous season: Jason Hewitt, Jonathan Phillips, Phil Hill and Robert Dowd. Out of these, Dowd was the top scorer with 49 points (41st in the league). Phillips was next with 30 points (82nd in the league). There were ten Steelers players that scored more points that Phillips, all of whom are signed with other teams for next year. This leaves quite a significant gap in goal scoring potential that Adams needs to fill.
On first glance this would perhaps not bode well for the season ahead. Adams has, however, invested in some quality imports that are new to the EIHL. This means we’ve yet to see how they perform, but on paper at least they look promising.
Mathieu Roy (LW) comes to the league from the ECHL Florida Everblades where he was captain. He’s creating a lot of interest among Steelers fans given his pedigree, not to mention his appearance on ECHL All-Star Teams. His 56 points in 53 games last season also look good, and given his quality I can’t see him having any major problems adapting to the bigger ice.
Mike Forney (LW) spent some time in Europe last year, with Sparta Sarpsborg (Austria) and Villacher SV (Austria), so should already be used to the ice. While his figures in Europe weren’t necessarily eye-catching, his almost 3 point per game average in the AIHL in 2012/13 certainly show that he can find the back of the net. He’s put up some solid numbers in the ECHL where most of his games have been played, and again is looking like a player to watch when it comes to Steelers offence.
Pascal Morency (RW) is also coming from Europe, bringing AHL and ECHL experience. While not a big point scorer, he should bring some grit, given the rather dubious award in 2012 for being Austria’s most penalised player. Not to mention the eye-watering 596 penalty minutes in 64 QMJHL games in 2001-02. He’ll be one I’ll be keeping an eye on (if he stays out of the box) given his previous links to the Pittsburgh Penguins farm teams Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Wheeling Nailers.
Colton Fretter (C/RW) was an Atlanta Thrashers draftee in 2002, and after playing in the ECHL and AHL, moved into Europe in 2010, putting in stints in Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. While his points per game stats have been up and down, it’s clear that he could make a big impact on the team after leading Austrian team Klagenfurter in scoring last season. He seems to be a keen shooter, which is always the first step to finding the back of the net.
Tyler Mosienko (C) is seemingly the player with the most to prove, and perhaps the most controversial of Adams’ imports. Mosienko was released by Danish team Esbjerg Energy last season after admitting to gambling on a game involving his team. While the amounts of money involved were small, the ethics of such a move were understandably not acceptable.
There are some concerns among the Steelers Nation in that respect, but it has been noticed in social media that most are willing to offer a second chance, provided Mosienko brings some loyalty and hard work to the team. From what I understand, his work ethic is pretty strong, and Mosienko certainly looks a useful fast-skating player. While in Denmark his points-per-game average was over 1.2, something the Steelers could do with up front.
Rounding out Adams’ ten forwards are Jay Latulippe (LW), who has previously seen EIHL action with the Cardiff Devils (2008-2010) and Dundee Stars (2010-11), and, at the moment (at least according to the published roster), Luke Ferrara, who has played most of his career with the Peterborough Phantoms in the EPIHL.
While Luke Ferrara will bring some youth to the team, he may lack the experience and skill to make too much of an impact amid the British veterans and skilled imports. Jay Latulippe put up some consistent numbers in his last stint with the EIHL (1.11 points per game), and Sheffield will be looking to him for similar numbers, especially given the improvement on those stats in Europe post EIHL.
The Steelers fans are expecting one more forward to be announced before the season starts. Given Adams’ signings upfront so far, I’m pretty confident that the holes in point scoring will be suitably filled.
How they come together as a team remains to be seen, but I’m quietly optimistic that come September 6th we’ll see the goal light flashing in our favour.