ICE hockey-mad youngsters at Sutton Sting played host to a visit by the Sheffield Steelers and were treated to a Steelers hockey clinic at the Lammas leisure centre which was led by Steelers’ head coach Ryan Finnerty.
Finnerty was joined by fellow Steelers players Chad Huttle, Lee Esders and Tom Squires, who put more than 50 kids through their paces on the ice and in the sports hall at Lammas.
When the session broke for lunch, Steelers star forward Jeff Legue turned up to give some one-on-one feedback to the kids as well as sign dozens of autographs, including the Sting’s own PCM Clarke and Meyers jerseys that the Nottingham Panthers-supporting youngsters were proudly wearing, which brought a smile to the Steelers’ players faces.
Finnerty said: “It’s a great facility at Sutton and the Sting have a great programme going on there for the kids which receives fantastic support from Ashfield District Council and the rink operator.
“It’s great for me and the boys to go down there and work with the kids and I was pleased with how the kids worked both on and off the ice. I hope we can do a lot more of this kind of clinic because it helps the kids and it helps the players too.”
Sting chairman, and Steelers’ fan Ian Johnson said: “We’ve worked with David Clarke, Danny Meyers and Jonathan Phillips last year, who provided our kids with some first class coaching on and off the ice and together they brought a new meaning to the Steelers and Panthers rivalry.
“In the past couple of weeks we have had some North American input with Finnerty and Huttle giving our kids a talk on on junior hockey as well as taking time to run a special clinic which was a huge success.
“I hope we can continue to work closely with the pro players and maybe even encourage more community work between the Steelers and the Panthers outside of their home cities because they both have supporters in Ashfield and the surrounding districts too.”
Sting have 12 teams catering for kids from age five years and upwards and there is also an U16 team for girls.
With Sting’s Learn to Hockey Skate’ and ‘Learn to Play Hockey’ programmes taking place at Lammas on Saturday mornings and Monday evenings there’s never been a better time to get your skates on.
The Sting are now planning a return visit of the Steelers to Lammas in April.
l Promoted to Division One last season, Sutton Sting U12s are holding their own in English ice hockey’s Division One North, which is proving to be a stern test.
However, with two of the strongest teams in the country in their division in Nottingham and Sheffield, the Sting have proved themselves to be a very capable team and very much worthy of a place in the top league.
Last week the Sting played Sheffield and gave their South Yorkshire rivals their toughest challenge yet, losing 5-0, which is a far cry from the usual 20-0 drubbings from games in the past.
Games against Nottingham have been equally competitive and, when you consider the gulf in facilities and catchment between the likes of Nottingham or Sheffield and Sutton, you begin to see just how well Sting are doing.
Last weekend Sting U12s also took a road trip to Coventry to face Coventry Blaze at the Skydome.
The league table suggested Blaze were the better team and, with home ice advantage, Sutton would need to be at their best if they were to avoid defeat for the sixth time this season.
Sting led and then twice found themselves behind before making it 3-3 with eight minutes to go.
Sting had a penalty to kill before, back at full strength, the Sting pressure continued with breakaway attacks mounted down the left flank, exposing the Coventry netminder as three goals flew in as the Blaze collapsed.
Coventry had out-shot the Sting 28-17, but it was Sutton’s greater accuracy and stronger goalie that made the difference on the day in the 6-3 win.
The league table shows that Sutton’s run-in is far less difficult than Telford and Coventry, who both have to face league leaders Nottingham and second place Sheffield.
If Sting can use this win by putting a string of results together then a top three finish is achievable. Next up is a road trip to Hull and the Kingston Jets.