Ice hockey: Steelers face European test

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The Independent Online
Sheffield Steelers will be looking to maintain the recent resurgence of the sport in Britain when they take on some of Europe's best teams in Finland this weekend.

In midweek Great Britain moved a step closer to qualifying for the Olympics for the first time in 50 years with a convincing 5-0 defeat of Slovenia. Now Alex Dampier's Steelers try to back up Britain's achievements with a decent show in the European Cup semi-finals.

It will not be easy. At the same stage two years ago, Cardiff Devils scored three goals and conceded 40 in a pointless crusade to Minsk. Steelers are unlikely to surrender as easily, which is mainly due to the new Superleague and the arrival of North Americans and Canadians on these shores.

Steelers take on the Norwegian champions, Storhamar, in today's opener. Tomorrow they face their toughest test against the host side, HPK Hameenlinna, before wrapping up the three-game series the following night against the Belarussians, Polymir Khimik Novopoletsk.

"Finland will be a huge, huge leap for us," the Steelers' coach, Alex Dampier, said. "We are all looking forward to it."

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