"Competition is healthy for a team," says Steelers player as he prepares to spend most of season with Steeldogs

When Cole Shudra takes a break mid-way through his night-shift at Morrisons, he may well ponder on how his ice hockey career will ultimately pan out.
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A fortnight ago, Sheffield Steelers announced the 21-year-old would spend most of the upcoming season at NIHL neighbours Steeldogs, in a 'two-way' arrangement.

At the same time, they revealed they'd signed another Brit, 22-year-old Sam Jones, from Fife Flyers.

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Shudra's team-mate Kieran Brown, who has now left Steelers for Leeds Chiefs, felt that must have been a "kick in the teeth '' for his buddy.

Cole Shudra seizing on one of relatively few opportunitiesCole Shudra seizing on one of relatively few opportunities
Cole Shudra seizing on one of relatively few opportunities

Shudra, currently earning Summer cash at the supermarket, had indeed hoped that his earlier, 2018-19 loan season at Milton Keynes Lightning would have been a launch pad for a successful Steeler season.

He'd also effectively been chosen ahead of Brown, 12 months ago, for a regular roster spot on Arena ice.

But a lack of playing time meant he never achieved what he'd hoped for. Thus the step down a league.

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"Aaron (Fox; coach) suggested the two-way deal and while I wasn't too up for it to begin with I understand that this is all about getting me extra ice time" said Shudra.

Michael Davies with the Challenge Cup.Michael Davies with the Challenge Cup.
Michael Davies with the Challenge Cup.

"And it comes at a time of change in the sport because of the pandemic, roster sizes could be decreased" said Shudra.

"So I'll do it for a year, develop and see what happens. Steeldogs have great veterans, I can learn a lot from them."

The player added: "Technically, it's a step down, but I don't see it that way. The best way to learn is increased minutes, time on special teams, coping in high-pressure situations, especially mentally.

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"Games and championships can be decided in the final minutes of a game, those last minutes define players.

"Look at Levi Nelson in the Play Off final (scored the winner in the second period of overtime in 2017) and Michael Davies in the Challenge Cup final netted twice in March.)

"I want to learn to be a clutch player like they were, coming up big when it matters."

Asked if he felt Midlands-born Jones had effectively been handed his role, Shudra replied: "Yeah, it would have gone through anybody's mind: 'I could have done that.'

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"He plays the same position and is about the same age. But competition is healthy for a team and if Aaron feels it will help us win I have no issue with it.

"It is hard to win a coach's trust as a young Brit. That isn't the coach's fault, they are trying to win and protect their own job and they take a slight risk when they play them.

"I'd personally enjoy seeing more Brits in the team, it doesn't matter to me whether they are from Sheffield or not."

The skater concluded: "Really, I suppose it would have been better for me to have had a two-way year deal last season, rather than next...although I felt I did enough when I did get some ice time for Steelers."