Sheffield Steelers forward Robert Dowd remains one of the most effective two-way players in the Elite League – and his team of the week status should surprise no one in the aftermath of an emotional weekend in Yorkshire.
Dowd played a starring role for Sheffield, as the Steelers took to the ice for the first time since Nottingham Panthers forward Adam Johnson was fatally injured during a fixture at the Utilita Arena last month.
Aaron Fox’s squad returned to the fray on Saturday [11 November], defeating the Manchester Storm 4-1 on their travels to Planet Ice Altrincham.
While Dowd was impactful versus Manchester, the 35-year-old saved his best play until last and notched the overtime winner on Sunday [12 November] to down the Coventry Blaze.
Sheffield Steelers’ Robert Dowd headlines Elite League Team of the Week:
Elsewhere in the Elite League, the Belfast Giants continued their torrid run of form, with head coach Adam Keefe blasting the “passengers” on his roster “who can’t handle the pace and intensity of the league” after back-to-back losses to the Cardiff Devils and Guildford Flames.
The Dundee Stars enjoyed a four-point weekend, with wins over the neighbouring Fife Flyers and Glasgow Clan. Guildford and Cardiff also went two-for-two.
With that in mind, Luke James presents our eighth team of the week of the 2023-24 Elite League season.
Goaltender: Eamon McAdam, Guildford Flames
Guildford’s Eamon McAdam is our top goaltender for the second week in a row – a fact that won’t surprise fans of the Flames.
McAdam has been on top form in recent weeks, backstopping Paul Dixon’s side to four consecutive wins while also keeping his nightly save percentage above the .925 plateau.
The American started the latest round of play with a solid performance in an overtime win against Coventry, producing 13 saves on 14 shots at the Skydome Arena.
But, for the second time in as many weeks, it was his inspired play against the Giants that separated him from the pack.
McAdam authored a 30-save shift versus Belfast, stopping eight mid-danger chances to stifle Keefe’s side.
Defenceman: Chris McKay, Dundee Stars
Chris McKay is a dependable defender at the Elite League level, who enjoyed himself a breakout weekend for the Stars.
The 27-year-old scored in the second period of Dundee’s 6-2 win over the Clan on Sunday, finishing with a plus-two rating through 21:29 time on ice.
McKay was a positive influence defensively a day earlier, finishing plus-one in a 6-4 win against the Flyers.
Defenceman: Ben O’Connor, Guildford Flames
Ben O’Connor – what more is there to say?
The 34-year-old netted Guildford’s opening goal against Belfast and led the team through almost 25 minutes of ice time, playing in all situations.
O’Connor recorded six shots on goal from eight attempts and finished the night with plus-two in on-ice goal difference.
Forward: Robert Dowd, Sheffield Steelers
Steelers captain Dowd is the kind of player Elite League fans, whichever colours they wear on gamedays, will miss when he retires.
Capable of playing any outfield position, the Billingham-born skater added to his career point tally with single-goal performances versus Manchester (4-1) and Coventry (2-1).
Dowd deserves special recognition for his display against the Blaze due to the overriding importance of the fixture – he came in clutch with an overtime winner on Sheffield’s return to the Utilita Arena. Under impossible circumstances, he played an impeccable two-way game through 18:51 time on ice and went 9-7 in the faceoff circle.
“You could tell the emotion on Dowd’s face after last night’s game,” explained Fox. “It was fitting for him to get the goal and you couldn’t have written a better script for that guy to close this thing out for us tonight.”
Forward: Cole Sanford, Cardiff Devils
Cole Sanford had himself a week, with back-to-back braces against the Giants and Storm.
The Canadian’s goal-scoring was particularly impactful against Belfast, finding the back of the net twice in the final five minutes to ensure Pete Russell’s side travelled back to Wales with two points.
Cardiff’s win keeps them in the title picture, with winnable games against the Flyers and Stars to come.
Forward: Patrick Watling, Sheffield Steelers
Patrick Watling joins Dowd in our team of the week, but it could have been any number of players from the Steelers.
Watling notched two points versus the Storm, scoring the opening goal before tallying a primary assist on the final strike of the evening.
The Canadian’s consistency was crucial for Sheffield, who pulled through a difficult weekend with a perfect four-point record.
“We knew that we were going to have to get out here and get back to playing hockey in this building again,” said Fox after his side’s overtime win over Coventry.
“Towards the end of last week, we held a couple of optional skates and hoped that everyone would touch the ice at least once before Saturday. We came back on Tuesday and I felt like the group got a little bit better day in and day out.
“We know that there has been tonnes of support for our group, but we have a heck of a group of guys in that locker room and it says a lot about the character of our players that we won two hockey games.”
Would you have included Sheffield Steelers forward Robert Dowd in your team of the week? Join the discussion in the comments.