NHL draft pick Liam Kirk returns to Sheffield ice hockey
Liam Kirk, the South Yorkshireman who became the first English born and trained player to be drafted to the NHL, will join Steelers captain Jonathan Phillips in the Sheffield Steeldogs' side which competes in the newly-announced Spring Cup tournament this weekend.
Kirk's decision, hinted at by The Star on social media on Sunday, is a huge boost for the iceSheffield club and will guarantee extra numbers in terms of watchers on the web stream.
It is also a huge relief for Phillips, and former Steelers' star Ben O'Connor, both of whom have been desperate to get some action under their belts before the World Championships on May 22, when Great Britain face the awesome might of Russia, the world number two seeds.
Jason Hewitt, who iced 682 times for Steelers, is also in the NIHL squad as is Canada-born Ben Lake who played last year for Belfast Giants.
Kirk, drafted by Arizona Coyotes in 2018, has just turned 21 and fans will be keen to see how he has developed since leaving Steelers to be farmed out to Peterborough Petes in the OHL.
The Maltby forward was loaned out to Hanhals in Sweden this season and played a dozen games (10 pts) there before returning to train alongside Phillips in Sheffield.
Steeldogs say their squad - which they intend to keep intact for the entire tournament - will represent Sheffield and Yorkshire in the games.
They will be led by Greg Wood, who returns to the position of coach.
He has had to leave out Reece Cochrane, Ralfs Circenis and Martins Susters.
Steeldogs' co-owner Ali Cree commented: "We are keen to build on how the team played in November (Streaming Series) and supported Greg in tweaking that side to have a team of locally-based players who should create more entertaining hockey.
“Ben, Jason and Jonathan Kirk (Liam's brother) all fitted in really well, so we were keen to have them back – and they were all very happy to return.
“It is great to have Liam back as a Steeldog again. He played his first ever senior games with us and showed so much potential then, and he’s gone from strength to strength since then.
"Jonathan Phillips has achieved so much in hockey with the Steelers and GB and as he has jumped on to our training sessions many times, he knows the guys.
“We know that these vastly-experienced, GB players will bring loads to the club and help develop our core, younger guys.
"We are pleased to be giving them much needed competitive ice time to aid their preparations for the World Championships in Latvia.
“The club decided to go with a long bench for these games as there are a lot of variables, so we wanted to be prepared for any challenges due to injury, illness or work commitments. Everyone is so excited to be back in action and looking forward to taking on Swindon next weekend”.
Fans can book online streaming tickets for Sunday’s game at https://steeldogs.ticketco.events/uk/en/e/sheffield_steeldogs_v_swindon_wildcats_spring_cup_sunday_14th_february.
Netminders: Dmitri Zimozdra, Miles Finney.
Defence: Lewis Bell, Ben Morgan, Ryan Johnson, Tom Relf, Ben O'Connor, Tim Smith, Jonathan Kirk.
Forwards: Brady Doxey, Ben Lake, Craig Elliott, James Spurr, Jason Hewitt, Jonathan Phillips, Alex Graham, Nathan Ripley, Jack Brammer, Charlie Thompson, Nathan Salem,
Stanislav Lascek and Liam Kirk.