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Steel slip to 1-7 after 2 more losses

NEW ULM — The New Ulm Steel, who are coming off consecutive weekend losses to Willmar of 4-3 in overtime Saturday night here in New Ulm and a 4-1 road loss Sunday afternoon, now face two of the stronger teams in the West Division this weekend.

Friday they host West Division leading North Iowa (9-2) at 7:10 p.m. at the New Ulm Civic Center before traveling to Sauk Rapids to play the 5-1 Granite City Lumberjacks on Saturday.

And the Steel (1-7) will have their hands full with both teams.

The Bulls have the top offense in the Division, scoring 58 goals in 11 games (5.2 goals per game) and then meet the best defensive divisional team in the Lumberjacks, who have allowed just 10 goals in six games.

And Steel coach Zach Stepan said that personnel changes need to be made.

“And that is what we are looking at this week,” Stepan said.

He did add that on the positive side, he looked at what the real issue with his team’s struggles have been.

“Sunday’s game penalties were an issue,” he said. “We had way too many penalties. I did not agree with them all but they were still called. We were on the penalty kill for 24 total minutes Sunday in a 60 minute game. That cannot happen and that will be addressed.”

He said that the first 20 minutes of Sunday’s game he timed how long Willmar had the puck on their stick in the Steel defensive zone.

“Willmar had the puck for 53 seconds in our zone for the first period,” he said. “And we were down 1-0. That is an issue so as much as I want to say my entire personnel needs to be changed, that proves that the current players in our locker room have the ability to take over games.That 53 seconds is a really good first period. But from our side of things we are not scoring and that is something that we need to work on.”

Stepan said that he started Zac Hattan in goal for both games this past weekeend.

“He had 40 total shots on him and that cannot happen and that was because of the penalty kill that we were on,” Stepan said. “He did a great job. We have been hard on him but he is an ’02 [birthday] so he should not be the go-to guy in Junior Hockey. He is only 18 years old.”

Stepan said that changes [maybe many] are coming this week.

“That depends on deals that can be made,” he said. “There will be some new faces here in the near future whether it is from teams in our league but I have also had a lot of talks with [North American Hockey League] NAHL teams.”

Stepan said that he has a lot of decisions to make early this week.

“I have a 24-hour rule for myself so we have not hit that 24-hour technically yet but I want to make those decisions today [Monday] so I will make those decisions [Monday].”

The Steel will not have their top two scorers for this weekend’s games as both Corey Stormer and Joey Gimberlin are out with concussions.

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