Sheffield Steelers swoop for Finnish veteran winger

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Sheffield Steelers’ fishing expedition to find an injury replacement has landed them a big catch - a forward straight out of the Finnish Elite League.

The club says Juha Koivisto is joining them on an “initial” four week contract - so they will reassess whether they keep him after that time.

If the 33-year-old has proved himself as a season-long capture, owner Tony Smith will then be asked to either cut an existing player or carry another import.

But that situation is a month away - and if pre-season is anything to go by, other injuries could occur.

Koivisto won’t have much time to adjust, to state his case.

Coach Paul Thompson says the right winger “will arrive in Sheffield ahead of Friday’s practise and will make his debut in Manchester on Saturday for our first Challenge Cup game.”

Steelewrs coach Paul Thompson with new signing Juha Koivisto

Steelewrs coach Paul Thompson with new signing Juha Koivisto

That will be an interesting challenge for a player who has spent his entire career in Finland and the last four seasons with one club, Hämeenlinnan Pallokerho.

Thompson said: “I think we are extremely lucky to find someone with over 300 Liiga games at such short notice.

“Juha will join us as injury cover that gives us time let our playing roster return to full strength we hope.

“The good news with Juha is that he has been on the ice every day skating with a group of Finnish NHL’ers.

Juha Koivisto

Juha Koivisto

“We had to move promptly and I thank Tony for allowing this move to go ahead as quickly as it did.

“The fans will get a chance to see him on Sunday when we play Nottingham at home at the Arena”

Koivisto has played 341 Liiga over the last seven years.

He only played 30 games last year, as opposed to 50-60 in precious years so his points tally was modest - four goals and three assists.

Steelers will need a lift in the scoring department after injuries to the likes of Mathieu Roy, Colton Fretter and Matt Marquardt contibuted to a lack of offensive firepower, a point picked up by d-man Davey Phillips.

“It’s early days yet, pre-season was all about getting the chemistry right for the serious games” he said.

“When you are not scoring enough goals - and you want at least two or three a game - then you have to focus on that.”

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