Steel continue to struggle this season
NEW ULM — With 17 games to go in the regular season and 11 points out of the final playoff spot in the West Division, the New Ulm Steel (4-17-2 and losers of four straight games) hope to break that skid at 7:10 p.m. Friday when they host Granite City.
The Steel trail Alexandria for the final postseason spot but do play the Blizzard in five of their last 17 games with just one of those meetings on home ice on March 20.
“We need to find a way to win these must-win games,” Stepan said. “There definitely is pressure on us to win but there always is going to be pressure. Everyone has had to deal with the COVID issue so you cannot use it as an excuse. We need to find a way to win. But even in our loss last weekend (4-1 to Granite City) we did a lot of good things that we did as a team that did not show up on the scoreboard. For us as a group we have taken steps in the right direction.”
Granite City sits in third place, just one point ahead of Alexandria.
“They (Granite City) have a lot of games coming up because they had a two-week (COVID) shutdown when we were all playing so they have extra games to make up. So that is where this stretch of games is important and anyone in this league can win a game on a given night because it is not just two games a week anymore — you can be playing four games in five days. You need to find a way to get points every night.”
Stepan said that in order to break the four-game losing streak it is going to take his younger players to step up.
“We got rid of some of our top (last year) players and that has allowed some of our younger guys to play more of a bigger role, however this year goes our younger guys are going to get a lot of looks down the stretch here. They are going to get that feeling of what it is like to be go-to player. We get all of these younger players back we are going to be sitting in a good spot.”
Stepan said that the losing streak “has been a mental battle. But they are not letting that hammer them down as much as you think it would. They are staying positive and hopefully they start to get rewarded for it.”
The Steel’s roster is now set for the rest of the season with the only move that they made last week was cutting goaltender Zac Hattan, who was picked up by the Great Falls (Montana) Americans of the Frontier Division of the NA3HL.
The Steel will play road games at Granite City and Alexandria before coming home on Sunday, February 28 to host North Iowa.