Sunday 15 April 2018

Frozen Steel Statement

Between this season's playoff quarter finals and the playoff finals weekend, after much deliberation, we announced through the Frozen Steel MNL account on Twitter that the 2017/18 EIHL season would be the last for Frozen Steel in its entirety. We would like to take this opportunity to fully explain, as promised, why we have come to this very difficult decision. There will be three parts to this statement

1. Explaining the reasons for the closure of Frozen Steel Blog.

2. Explaining in further detail why Alan will cease to provide his own MNL service.

3. The "next generation" of Steelers bloggers and where you can find them.

Grab a cuppa folks, this WILL be a long read.

During the course of this season, we had found it increasingly difficult to find the appropriate time to regularly produce and release our articles for you to read on the blog, produce a podcast for you to listen to each week and also were unable to give a newly formed junior section the appropriate push it deserved.
A lot of this has been down to Alan having to spend and focus a serious amount of his time on his work and his business, having hit financial troubles with it early in the season. Due to having to then recover the business, he has since sacrificed, and continues to sacrifice, a lot of time away from home, which is the main reason for there being no podcasts in several months. We looked at trying to record podcasts through different means, but due to technical difficulties, it proved too difficult to try and get around. He had also hoped to create and promote a new junior section for the blog, to help find the next generation of bloggers in the Steelers fan base, having agreed to merge with the Steel The Puck blog and take them under our wing. Again, due to his work and his business, he was unable to focus the appropriate amount of time towards helping George grow the junior section after its creation.
Further to this, soon after the turn of the year, Mark was finding it increasingly difficult to find the spare time required to keep editing, producing and releasing the various articles for you to read on the blog itself. He also had other things to focus on in his life, such as his football media commitments and his better half. He eventually came to a decision in mid-March that he would be looking to step down from the blog and look to utilise his free time elsewhere.
We decided that before making a final decision on the fate of Frozen Steel, we would sit down and discuss at length any possible further alternatives to keep the blog running. In the end, we concluded that it would simply be far too time consuming, even to spread the workload even more, and thus decided that this season would be the last.
Since the initial announcement that Frozen Steel would be fully closing, a lot of people were upset to see that our MNL Twitter account particularly would be closing, and not just be renamed as something else and the service continue to be provided. There were also a few comments with regards to our Breaking The Ice podcast that we provided. To explain that decision further, Alan had the following to say on the two matters.
"Four years ago, I decided to create the MNL Twitter account as a little bit of a project, something different for me to do on a match night, to add a new dimension if you will to my hockey night experience. Back then, I felt that the club wasn't as good as it could have been in keeping the fans regularly up to date on what was happening during the games, both Steelers fans not at the game and the visiting teams’ fans as well. We were starting to see an increase in the following on the blog, so I simply thought, why not?
Not long after that, things just blew up. The account took off and I was able to enjoy my hockey nights even more because of people being thankful that I was able to keep them informed of what was going on. In turn, it also helped grow the blog itself furthermore. More followers, more articles and then eventually the podcast, something I will address shortly.
However, I also knew that at some point the club would start to improve its official match night updates. Over the course of the 2017/18 season, plus towards the very back end of the 2016/17 season, I have been incredibly fortunate enough to be able to help the club directly in keeping the fans informed on its official account, on odd occasions. That has been something that I have taken great pride in being able to do with the trust of the club. I have David Simms to thank personally for that, having first asked me to help him out as an emergency for an away game in Nottingham. We also owe him a huge thank you for allowing us to promote the podcast we were producing through the club’s Twitter account as well.
One thing I would like to make clear however is this. Despite me deciding to shut down my own update service, either as Frozen Steel MNL or under another name, I will gladly continue to assist the club directly in keeping fans up to date on away games, on the clubs official account, whenever they need me to fill in for them if I am able to be there myself. I have always said that between the MNL account and the official account that we would always find a way to have you covered. Going forward, I hope that we can continue to do that with me helping the club directly from now on, should they require my assistance at any time.
With regards to the podcast, due to my work and business having to take a huge priority, the podcast took quite a shelving and had a very abrupt finish. A podcast however, MAY still feature next season, but that is something I will look at further down the line, even if it only ends up being a monthly thing. Other clubs have podcasts about it, and our club certainly should have one as well, so that is something I'll look into again during the summer."
Going forward, we are pleased to say that there IS a new generation of bloggers out there starting to regularly cover things to do with our club. With the decision to close Frozen Steel fully, George has decided that he would bring back his Steel The Puck blog. He has since reversed the name change to Frozen Steel Jr, and Steel The Puck is now back on Twitter. You can find it at @steelthepuck so make sure you go and follow it.
Also, when we created the junior section, part of the original team brought in was Amy-Leigh. However, after a slow start to getting articles put online, she decided she would go it alone and start to produce her own blog and articles. We are pleased to say that over the season, her work has improved greatly and now becomes an enjoyable read, with one or two pieces in our minds being quite exceptional, not just for someone her age either. She has also been able to get interviews directly with players as well as a couple of other surprising features. You can find her blog at @ice_the_puck on Twitter.
Furthermore, you can find the direct links for the blogs are and Please, please, PLEASE give these two young fans the follows and support that they deserve.

In closing this statement, there are a few thank yous that should be made:
Firstly, thank you to Liam McCausland, for being one that created Frozen Steel in the first place and asking for Alan and Tom to assist him after its creation. Whilst things ended pretty badly between the three of them, we must respect, as we always have, that without Liam’s initial idea, none of us would be here doing this for the length of time that we have.
Secondly, thank you to Tom Walkeden, for his time with the blog until he decided he needed to focus on more important issues. We will always be here for Tom, through thick and thin. You will always be a part of the Frozen Steel team.
Thirdly, thank you to Tony, for his time in assisting us (particularly Mark) in collaborating our Soapbox and also filling in when others were on holiday, in making sure that articles still got produced and released.
Fourthly, thank you to everyone that has been a part of the Soapbox, for being part of our most popular articles ever produced on the blog. Having the wide range of opinions over the years has made for terrific reading and has been a huge part of the blogs success.
Fifthly, thank you to David Simms and the Sheffield Steelers, for allowing us to have the opportunity and time to work with you all more directly, especially in the last two seasons. It has been a pleasure to have built a more direct working relationship with you all and we hope that is something we can continue to develop going forward, despite the closure of Frozen Steel. If you ever need a favour or a helping hand with something that needs producing, please, just ask us.\par
Sixthly, thank you to Richard Renshaw, for helping us design and create near enough all of our headers, footers and the like, for the blog and Twitter accounts. His work helped add a more professional look to everything we did.\par
Seventhly, thank you to our fellow bloggers and podcasters from around the league, for your initial advice, continued support and equally your continued promotion. We truly have been one big family around the league and getting to know you, and work with you, has been a blast every step of the way.\par
Lastly, and most importantly, thank you to ALL OF YOU. Whether you have only ever read one article or read them all, listened to a few podcasts or none at all, your support, feedback, discussions, debates, advice, EVERYTHING, over the years has helped us improve what we did and also helped some of us grow as people as well. We will be eternally grateful for all that you have given us.\par
We do ask one final favour of you though. Take care of each other, look out for one another, support our fellow bloggers and podcasters, but most importantly this...
"Stop making us listen to Sweet bloody Caroline!"
With our heartfelt thanks and our best wishes for the future,

Alan, Mark and Fergus

Saturday 14 April 2018

From The Editor's Chair - Edition 55

"And now the end is near, and so I face the final curtain..."

This is probably the hardest article I have ever had cause to write for Frozen Steel, and that's because it's my last one. Yes you read that right.

I've always enjoyed writing things, whether it be a fictional story or a creative article about something that I am interested in. My English GCSE assignments were always long winded efforts, if it wasn't at least eight pages long then there was something desperately amiss that's for sure. Some people like doing art to keep themselves focused and relaxed, I was always writing.

Well I first came to Frozen Steel in the close season of 2013-14, writing more and more regularly the following season. I had done pieces on hockey before, writing a column for British Ice Hockey when encouraged by now Braehead Clan General Manager Gareth Chalmers to do and had a regular piece in the then Sheffield Scimitars matchday programme as well. However, it wasn't good enough for a certain someone when the Steelers matchday magazine was looking for new contributors. I was told by this person that: "I knew nothing about hockey and that was it." - a bit galling when I've watched the sport since I was 8 and the Steelers from the very first season. Yes I remember Paul Thompson the player!

But I was undeterred and if the Club programme didn't want me, then FSB definitely did. So I started to write articles quite often. Then in August 2015 I was asked to take over the running as Editor of the Blog after Tom decided  he needed time out to focus on other things and Alan thought as I would be a natural fit for the role. I didn't need much talking around that's for sure so on August 11 2015, I became the third editor of the Blog.

During my time I have seen the evolution of popular articles such as the "Hockey Soapbox" . I've also taken part as a regular pundit on the "Match Night Talk Show" which eventually morphed to into another success story that being "Breaking The Ice": our podcast. I've written endless articles (some say too many haha) and tried to keep the blog ticking over especially in the summer when things are naturally a bit quieter.

However, I've had juggle this with a full time job and also doing freelance media for the Star newspaper writing about local amateur football. It's certainly kept me busy. Yet all good things must come to an end, and this is it. I started off this article with a line from Frank Sinatra song, and will finish it with one from the same one:

"The record shows I took the blows, and I did it my way. Yes I did my way."

Thanks everyone, that's definitely all folks.

Mark (Mad Dog)

From The Editor's Chair - Edition 54

You've had the official Elite League awards where Cardiff managed to bag everything on offer; and to be honest I felt that there were other creditable candidates who could have taken away some of the awards. Obviously you're not going to all agree with that. Therefore I've decided to host my own end of season awards in one of the last articles I've penned for Frozen Steel.

Grab the smart frock and tuxedo ladies and gentlemen, it's the FSB End Of Season Awards Show:

Netminder of the Year: The EIHL awarded this to Bownsy, is that because he was the league champions netminder? Not that Bownsy is a bad goalie, he is quite good in fact but I'm awarding this to Steelers very own Ervins Mustukovs. Top of all the stats plus nine shutouts in a season where his team underachieved. Sure he's had a few dodgy games, all goalies do, but he gets my vote. Special props to Jackson Whistle of Belfast and Andy Iles of Fife who also had decent seasons and always looked to give their side a chance to win every night.

Defenceman of the Year: Again Cardiff won this one in the EIHL awards with them awarding it to Andrew Hotham for the fourth consecutive term, and once again I'm going to disagree with them. I've decided to award my version of it to a guy who shares the same nickname as me, Mad Dog, that being Steelers' Mark Matheson. Matheson was one of those players that was consistent every night and was comfortable at both ends of the ice; doing the simple things right which some don't notice. Pushing him close in my eyes were Guildford duo Jesse Craige and Calle Ackered as well as Storm's Dallas Erdhardt who is maturing into a dependable player so much he has been called up by GB.

British Player Of Year: Another one that went Cardiff's way and to Bownsy. I'm again going to go against that myself and award it elsewhere. I've gone for actually one of Bownsy's team-mates in Mark Richardson, who has been a stalwart of the Devils blueline and deservedly got a testimonial this season. Pushing "Rico" close are Ben O'Connor of the Steelers who enjoyed one of his best goalscoring campaigns, his Steelers team-mate Davey Phillips who has become a steady performer as well as the evergreen that is Colin Shields of Belfast.

Forward Of The Year: EIHL award went to a Cardiff player in the shape of Joey Martin, but yes I'm going against it. I've decided to hand it to Mike Hammond of the Manchester Storm, and he richly deserves that. Hammond has come back from a potentially career ending knee injury and topped the points charts, scoring an impressive 32 goals and 85 points. How can you argue against that? Also in contention for me would have been his Storm team-mate Dane Byers who was signed as a "policeman" but put up some incredible numbers, Flames John Dunbar and despite his hotheaded temper Giants Sebastian Sylvestrè.

Coach Of The Year: Andrew Lord scooped that at the EIHL awards for the second season in a row, well he did do the Panthers "Grand Slam" again didn't he? But he doesn't get my vote, mine goes to a guy who two seasons ago might have been on the verge of the sack and ending a long running love affair with a club that he joined in 1998. Step forward Todd Dutiaume of Fife. He recruited a team that at one stage might have challenged for the big prize but also made the final four weekend too. He is certainly building on a legacy there in Kirkcaldy. Statue in the town next? Also a big well done to first year EIHL coaches in Adam Keefe of the Giants and Paul Dixon of Guildford for me.

Goal Of The Season: There's been a few contenders but my vote goes to John Armstrong of the Steelers for his effort against the Flames in the first leg of the play-off quarter final. Picking the puck deep inside his own defensive zone, John went coast to coast like a knife through hot butter in the Flames defenceman before driving the net and finishing with the coup de grace over Brian Stewart. Now if that had been someone like Sidney Crosby in the NHL, they would be salivating and creaming themselves. 

Finally...My All Star Teams Of The Season:

1st Team 

Matheson --- Ackered

Hammond --- Dunbar --- Byers

2nd Team


Craige --- Erdhardt

Vallerand --- Moffatt --- Sylvestrè

Tuesday 3 April 2018

The Junior Report - Edition 24

Warm appreciation to George for his latest contribution to FSB, All credit for this piece goes to him.

The Arena season finale came against a Guildford Flames side in the first leg of the playoffs. Both sides went into it into good form, but over the course of the weekend it ended up being the Steelers who progressed to the finals weekend. The game started very badly for the Steelers. Going one nil down because of a tipped shot out in front of Mustukovs on a delayed penalty to make it 1-0. It remained the same scoreline for another 1 and a half periods.

John Armstrong was the first scorer of the night for the Steelers, picking up a loose puck in the end zone to snipe one past the impressive one man show stopper Brian Stewart. The joy was cut short when a Geoff Walker feed was tapped in at the back door by Brett Ferguson, however a 5 on 3 powerplay ripper from Robert Dowd cancelled out the goal moments later, he sniped one low past Stewart.

Then came goal of the season from Armstrong, whose skating skills proved dividends past 5 skaters of the Flames, before nice stick handling and an excellent chip shot beat Stewart to make it 3-2. Soon after Valdix made it 4-2 after excellent patient skating from Fretter made it possible to deliver an excellent back door feed, for an easy tap in past the wall. The game was rounded off by Matheson, who effectively put Guildford out of contention, his low snipe beat everybody including Stewart, to end the Flames season. 

Final score Steelers 5-2 Flames

Flames win but Steelers progress to semi-final

Welcome to our match report from Sunday's game at Guildford.

After produced an explosive final 10 minutes in the first leg of the play-off quarter final; Steelers headed into the second one with a 5-2 advantage. The team news was the same as it was the night before which meant that Matt Marquardt and Tim Wallace were absentees. For Guildford, they made two changes from the first leg. Chris Carrozzi replaced Brian Stewart in between the pipes, whilst Brett Ferguson was suspended for his check from behind on Steelers' Eric Neiley. Ian Watters was out injured and Richard Krogh was away on GB Under-18 duty alongside Steelers' very own Liam Kirk and Kieran Brown.

Steelers made a stellar star in the Spectrum with two goals in the first 3:22 of the contest to virtually put the contest beyond doubt. At 1:51 John Armstrong scored his third of the play-offs when Colton Fretter and Scott Aarssen combined to set up the big centreman. Then the lead went to 2-0 on 3:22; Robert Dowd and Joonas Ronnberg with the assists and Mark Matheson scored his second goal of the play-offs. It was an even contest, so it was no surprise that Guildford got a marker of their own. With Zack Fitzgerald, again playing winger, sitting an additional minor for interference - Flames well executed powerplay came off to make it 1-2 on the night: Jesse Craige lighting the lamp.

The score was still 1-2 in the Steelers favour as we began the second period, and we then had a quick rush of goals in that middle section. At 21:08 Guildford made it level on the evening when Rhett Rachinski scored but just 35 seconds later, Steelers were back in front when veteran winger Fretter netted from Eric Neiley and Matheson. The on-night lead was extended back to two at 33:44 when Neiley scored with Ronnberg and Fretter getting the helpers. Realising they had nothing to lose, Guildford looked to push and finish the season on a high with a home win and they entered the final period on an extended powerplay given against Fitzgerald for a high sticking double minor.

This extended powerplay proved very fruitful as it helped them back onto parity on the night with Ben Davies and Kruise Reddick scoring. By the time Reddick there was still 17 minutes left in the game, could the Flames do the unthinkable and pull it back further which might leaving the play-off trophy holders on the brink? As much as they did try, it proved to be a mountain they just couldn't scale and that margin in the final stages of the first leg proved to be ultimately pivotal for the Steelers. However, the Flames finished a hugely successful opening season in the EIHL on a winning note. With Carrozzi sacrificed for an extra skater, Flames pushed and Davies scored his second of the night for a 5-4 scoreline. Despite Ronnberg leaving blooded, Steelers saw the remaining 38 seconds out and a place in the final four where they will face old foes Nottingham in the second semi-final.

Time for the statistics:

Goals: Flames 5 Steelers 4 (7-9 on aggregate)

Steelers Scoring: Fretter 1+2, Matheson 1+1, Neiley 1+1, Ronnberg 0+2, Armstrong 1+0, Aarssen 0+1, Dowd 0+1.

Flames Scoring: Ackered 0+3, Davies 2+0, Reddick 1+1, Lidhammar 0+2, Walker 0+2, Craige 1+0, Reddick 1+0, Campbell 0+1, Dunbar 0+1.

Shots On Goal:  Steelers 27 Flames 43 

Powerplay: Steelers 0 from 2 (0% conversion), Flames 3 from 8 (38% conversion)

Penalty Minutes called: Steelers 20 Flames 8

Steelers Goaltender Stats: Mustukovs 38 Saves (68), GAA: 5.00 (3.50), Save Percentage: 88.40% (90.70%).