SHEFFIELD STEELERS: Janis Ozolins deserves top-level spot

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SHEFFIELD Steelers might have gone through an uncomfortable period with their neighbours, Sheffield Steeldogs recently.

But it doesn’t stop them casting an admiring eye over Steeldogs’ prize asset, Janis Ozolins.

The forward was signed for the iceSheffield EPL side in 2010 after outscoring everyone else in his native Latvian league.

Steelers’ coach Ryan Finnerty says of the 23-year-old: “I would like to see him in our League, he has great skill and absolutely deserves to be up there.

Whether he would fit in to the dynamics of our team is difficult to tell, he doesn’t really suit any of the roles we are looking for. But I would love to see him playing against bigger, more mature defencemen in the Elite League.

“Will it happen? I don’t know, some like playing down there (EPL) and dont want to come up.”

Ozolins was top scorer for Steeldogs and coach Andre Payette would like to see him back - although he wouldn’t stop the Latvian progressing his career if the right opportunity came along.

Last season the right-handerachieved 55 goals and 34 assists in 52 games, 39 points ahead of the second-placed points-scorer Greg Wood.

Relations between the two Sheffield clubs have cooled lately, with Steeldogs upset at suggestions they aligned themselves with Hull Stingrays, over Steelers, last year.

Dogs, who are keen to brand themselves as a ‘Made in Sheffield’ grassroots club, recently issued a statement saying: “We are always prepared, where possible, to work with our neighbours, and still are.

“Our main obligation is to all our players to help develop them as hockey players to the best level possible, via the best means possible.

“Our obligation to our Sheffield fans is to put the best ‘Made in Sheffield’ team out on the ice that we can, to win games and provide good entertainment.

“On our roster last season we had 15 Sheffield Academy-trained players and our commitment is to provide progression for our juniors and to help make our Steeldogs’ players become the best hockey players they can be.

“Our results last year proved that we were moving in the right direction. Why would we look elsewhere when we have the best junior programme in the country?”