John Armstrong backs incoming winger Tom Zanoski to fly for Sheffield Steelers

JOHN ARMSTRONG is confident new signing Tom Zanoski can play a key role in helping turn around Sheffield Steelers' faltering season.

NEW ARRIVAL: Winger Tom Zanoski has signed for Sheffield Steelers. Picture courtesy of Sheffield Steelers.
NEW ARRIVAL: Winger Tom Zanoski has signed for Sheffield Steelers. Picture courtesy of Sheffield Steelers.

The 34-year-old Croatian winger is a former team-mate of Armstrong's from their time together at EBEL side Medvescak Zagreb earlier this season.

Armstrong returned to the Steelers for a second stint in December and has helped convince winger Zanoski to hook up with him again, hopefully in time for this weekend's double header against bottom club Milton Keynes Lightning.

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Both Armstrong and Zanoski find themselves in South Yorkshire after the Croatian club ran reportedly into financial troubles in the past couple of months.

"He’s fast, he’s a good skater with a good release and a hard shot," said Armstrong. "He’s definitely the kind of guy that can produce the numbers for us.

"He asked me about the club and the fans and the team and I had nothing but good things to say and that was part of his decision to come here. He’s also a good guy and well respected in Croatia - he’s been there a long time. I think he was looking for a change and we were looking for a new guy, so it has fitted right."

Zanoski has had a long and varied pro career, one which started out in 2007 with ECHL side Stockton Thunder. He made his way to rivals Gwinnett Gladiators and in 2009-10 seemed to have his most stop-start season where he played on loan for five different AHL clubs.

The following season saw him play his last hockey in North America before a short-term switch to DEL 2 that preceded a return to his native country and his first stint with hometown team Medvescak. Sweden and Slovenia have been other stop-offs for the forward, who also got to play in the KHL with Medvescak between 2015-17.

John Armstrong will be hooking up with winger Tom Zanoski for a second time this season. Picture: Dean Woolley.

"John and others have told me great things about the club and the city," he said. “It’s been a difficult time for us all in Zagreb so it will be nice to come and join the Steelers and focus on nothing but hockey and a push for the play-offs."

Armstrong admitted this week's departure of three Steelers' players in the wake of a five-game losing streak that had left the team second-bottom in the Elite League standings had proved a difficult few days.

Goaltender Matt Climie plus forwards Justin Buzzeo and Steffan Della Rovere were shown the door as the Steelers attempt to ensure they are part of the post-season and salvage something from a disappointing 2018-19 campaign.

Home and away defeats against Dundee Stars at the weekend seemed to be the final straw for the club's owners, who decided to send out a strong message to their misfiring players that hard decisions will be made, with further changes possible before the February 15 trade deadline.

"The Steelers are an organisation that wants to win," said Armstrong. "It is a top organisation and they don’t really accept losses like that (against Dundee). So they are going to do what they can to make the team better. Management feels like they need to do something and the thing that they can do is cut guys and bring in new ones.

"It is a big part of sport that players get moved on and, as players, we know that. It is not the first time we have seen guys fired, but it’s something that you get used to, although it is still always tough.

"I haven’t been back here that long but you still become friends pretty quickly when you are spending every day with them, so it is always hard to see your friends go.

"We had a really good practice and guys were working harder than I’ve ever seen them since I’ve been back here. So it was good to have that and then, obviously, goodbyes are tough and we’ve been saying our goodbyes for the last couple of days, losing some good people, but now we’ve got to move on and look forward."