Connolly happy to play the waiting game

(PHOTO: Dean Woolley)

Sheffield Steelers forward Brendan Connolly was geared towards finally making his mark at the World Championships, but fears coronavirus may just delay that dream a little longer.

The 34-year-old was picked for last year’s tournament in Kosice, but a serious knee injury in his final game for Glasgow Clan meant he had to pull out and miss GB’s own “Miracle on Ice.’

However he insists there’s still plenty left to come from him and is prepared to wait if IIHF do decide to cancel this year’s tournament in Switzerland, but loved finally getting to wear the jersey at the Olympic qualifiers in January.

“My aim this season was to get back to fitness at first and in the back of mind, getting back involved with the Great Britain team after missing out last year,” he said.

“I watched the tournament in Slovakia and I was on the edge of my seat in that last game against France like a fan.  To see what they did, it gave me chills and I was so happy they were able to do it.

Connolly finally made his GB debut in January, but his hopes of going to the World Championships this year hang in the balance (PHOTO: Dean Woolley)

“I finally got my chance in the Olympic qualifiers and it was a great experience.  We felt really good about game, but fell short in the final game and it was great to play in that jersey in front of that crowd in Nottingham

“I was gutted to miss out last year after the injury I took, so I was delighted when they kept themselves up and we get another crack at it.  It gives you extra motivation and you want to put yourself up against the best players in the world.

“That gives us an opportunity to do that of course.  With the way things are in the world with the coronavirus, it would be disappointing to miss the World Championships again.

“It just seems like bad luck when something like that is out of your control, but we’ll see how things fare.  If it doesn’t happen, then that’s understandable.  I’ve still got hockey left in me so maybe 2021 could be the year.”

Connolly also reflected on the weekend that saw him pick up his second Challenge Cup winners medal to add to the one he won with Belfast Giants in 2018.

Steelers’ 4-3 win in Cardiff on the Sunday was a great recovery from a disappointing 7-3 loss at the same venue on league business 48 hours before.

Connolly scored Steelers’ third goal – a penalty shot – in last week’s Challenge Cup Final (PHOTO: Dave Williams)

Connolly admits the feeling after the first game was not a good one as they turned their attention to the showpiece final, but they remained confident of coming out on top.

He added: “It was very frustrating to lose the way we did on Friday and collectively, we didn’t have a good night and couldn’t get any puck luck.

“It wasn’t a great feeling going into a final after what had just happened beforehand, but the one thing about our group is the bounce back we have after results like that.

“We were definitely confident going into the final and we knew we had the team and what we were capable of.

“It definitely helped having half the crowd there.  The Steelers fans have been amazing and they created an amazing impact and it fired us right up.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to hold a trophy over your head and to do it with Sheffield after the drought they had in the Challenge Cup, it’s exciting and the city’s buzzing right now.  Plus the reception we had when we got back to the arena was incredible.”

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