Kalcrest Sheffield Steeldogs hard-working players have gained their ‘reward’ with the addition of a fourth import to their ‘home grown’ squad.
Owner Shane Smith gave player-coach Andre Patyette the go-ahead to sign up Latvian forward Raivis Kurnigins, hoping that he will prove as great a find as his international team-mate Janis Ozolins.
Kurnigins has been playing in his country’s top league this season, the same as Ozolins competed in last season, and has bagged 42 points from 23 games.
Smith said: “I’m delighted to be in a position where we can strengthen the squad with the final import slot and give the players and our ever-growing fan base what they deserve ... the chance to win something.
“Our lads have worked hard and I’m proud of their achievements so far this year. I honestly feel that with everything the lads have done on the ice and in the gym they have put themselves in a position I couldn’t ignore.”
Payette added: “We have worked really hard to find the right player at the right price over the past month. I have done my homework on many players and I feel this is the right fit for us because of where we are right now as a team. Raivis’ stats are comparable to Janis’ last year and we’re really hoping we are going to get a player of the same ability. Our team has battled hard all year against tremendous odds and playing an import down has made our Sheffield players stand up and be counted. “They have put 100 per cent effort in to achieve the great position we are in right now, so much so, that we’re in contention for three trophies and I hope Raivis gives us that bit of offensive spark we have been missing.
“He’s a good friend of Edgars Bebris and everything I hear about him is very good. The club will be breaking Raivis in slowly as this is his first club outside Latvia and he does not speak English, at present.”
Meanwhile Steeldogs gave themselves a huge confidence boost for the forthcoming home leg of the Cup semi-finals against Milton Keynes Lightning on Wednesday, February 8 (7.30pm) with a 2-0 league victory in the first part of last weekend’s away-day double header.
Bebris put them ahead after just four minutes and Ozolins added a second just before the first period break. Unfortunately they couldn’t repeat their shut-out at Telford Tigers and dipped to a 3-1 defeat after Ozolins had skated the length of the ice to put his side ahead within 43 seconds. The respective Man of the Match awards went to Ben Bowns and Lloyd Gibson.
Fifth-placed Steeldogs - only six points separate the top five teams - face a trip to Manchester Phoenix tonight (7.30pm) before a fifth consecutive on-the-road clash at Swindon Wildcats on Saturday (5.45pm) followed, 24 hours later, by the return fixture at iceSheffield (5.30pm).
Tickets available on the door, adults £9, concessions £6.50, child £3.50 (under-8s free) and family £20.