Ice hockey: Sheffield Steelers bring in American and Slovakian reinforcements

Colton Fretter - Sheffield Steelers
Colton Fretter - Sheffield Steelers

Sheffield Steelers yesterday pulled off a lightning move in the transfer market after an injury to their most important player, goaltender Frank Doyle.

And they could also unveil a Slovakian winger before tonight’s game against Coventry Blaze, too.

The club first flew in Josh Unice, an inexperienced but promising American goalie whose background has mainly been in University hockey.

Unice, 25, is untried at a high level across the Atlantic, and so his signing is a qualified risk. But with Doyle suffering a hand injury that could keep him out for weeks, Sheffield coach Gerad Adams had to swoop fast.

Unice came on the market after leaving Slovakian team Banska Bystrica. That’s the team that ex NHLer Colby Cohen quit to join Nottingham Panthers.

Adams explained: “Frank has a long standing hand and wrist issue - it was operated on a few years ago and has flared up again. We had three options and Josh was the strongest, so we welcome him to the team.”

Unice had junior honours in the USA national team programme and was an outstanding prospect. The move to Slovakia didn’t suit him - but now he has a chance to make a name for himself during Doyle’s absence, in the UK.

Meanwhile Steelers have agreed terms with Tomas Petruska, a 28-year-old, 5ft 11ins Slovakian left wing, who has parted company with Austrian side Graz, where he collected a point every other game. He takes Danny Bois’ slot in the roster - if the club can get him in before face off.

n Colton Fretter may be missing from the side this weekend but he feels the side has enough good players to reverse a trend of losing matches. The Canadian suffered an upper body injury against Belfast Giants and admits it is “questionable” whether he’ll be fit tonight. Results are even more vital after the side lost seven out of their last eight league games, three of them at home.

But the 32 year old, who played almost 200 AHL games, does not seem to share the view of some spectators who think they are losing their way. “I don’t know why we have been so inconsistent if we had the answers we’d get more wins,” he said. “In a lot of games we have played well but the breaks had gone away. We just have to go out and win every can we can. Our systems are good we have the right people here- we just need to execute.”

Asked if every game was a ‘cup final,’ given that Steelers are seven points behind the leaders, he replied: “We go into every game wanting to win no matter where we are in the standings.”

Steelers have had Coventry’s number so far this year, winning five of six matches against them. Steve Goertzen has scored in all four league matches against them and Fretter said: “He works really hard and that shows on the ice - he’s had success against us. But we can’t focus on one player, we won’t need a special plan for him. We just have to play hard and match their intensity. If we stick to our plan, we will get a result.”

Fretter was sorry to see Bois released this week but said other players now had to “prove they belong here.”

* Craig Kowalski posted a 33-save shutout as Nottingham Panthers moved above Belfast Giants and into second place in the Elite League standings following a 4-0 victory at the Odyssey Arena.

The Panthers produced a strong opening period as they went into the first break 3-0 up thanks two goals from Guillaume Doucet and one from Colby Cohen.

Robert Farmer wrapped things up late in the final session as Nottingham moved to within four points of leaders Braehead Clan with a game in hand.