Steel in must-win mode as season rolls on

NEW ULM — With 22 games left in their regular season — five of them being at home beginning with this Friday’s contest against Alexandria — New Ulm Steel head coach/GM Alex North has been crunching numbers as far as wins in the remaining games his team needs for a playoff push.

“I would say we need to win a minimum of 10 games of those game,” he said. “And we are also going to need some help. We really need to look at every game as a must win.”

Currently the Steel (9-16-3) are in fifth place — 3 points behind fourth place Willmar for the final playoff spot.

But also just a point ahead of the last place Minnesota Loons in the West Division.

And it will be a tough schedule that faces the Steel as all of the teams they meet are ahead of them in the standings.

“We really need to be more accountable defensively,” North said. “We have come along ways from last year offensively but it is hard to win when you are giving up more goals than you score. We need to take more pride in that defensive play.”

This season so far the Steel have been outscored by 34 goals — worst in the division.

The Steel did make a player move this week when they traded forward Ryler Schelle to Sheridan (Wyoming) Hawks for assets.

“And he got to be closer to home — we still might be making a few moves here and there and may bring in one or two more players yet,” North said.

North did say that the situation with Vladislav Ostapenko returning to Russia to take an exam so he does not have to do military service was something that he knew was in the works.

“I knew that there was something going on kind of with the language barrier,” he said. “He had a situation that I had never really had to deal with before. Now I have a better understanding of what is going on — I did not know exactly what is happening, but it is something that I am glad is getting taken care of now and we are hoping to get him back for our playoff push.

“It is a huge cultural change for him (17 years old) and I give a lot of credit to our players who made sure he knew he was welcome here. It is a culture shock. I think that he has handled it pretty well so far.”

Friday night is “Printwear Graphics Night” at the New Ulm Civic Center for the 7:10 p.m. game that will feature t-shirt giveaways during the game.


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