Joonas Ronnberg back in for the long haul with Sheffield Steelers

I'LL BE BACK: Joonas Ronnberg salutes the crowd after his 'final' game for the Steelers earlier this season. Picture: Dean Woolley.
I'LL BE BACK: Joonas Ronnberg salutes the crowd after his 'final' game for the Steelers earlier this season. Picture: Dean Woolley.
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FACED with a gruelling run of eight games in the next 16 days and four key players missing for all or part of that run, Sheffield Steelers knew something had to give.

Fortunately on Wednesday for Paul Thompson's team it was defensive lynchpin Joonas Ronnberg who was in the giving mood, making his return to the club until the end of the season.

The 32-year-old defenceman returned home to Finland in early November for family reasons - briefly returning to the ice shortly for for the Steelers' Continental Cup second round adventure in Denmark.

Head coach Thompson would have loved to see Ronnberg remain with the Steelers after Copenhagen, but is delighted to have persuaded the 6ft 4ins man-mountain to return for the remainder of the campaign.

"I always remained hopeful that at some stage Ronnie could return at some stage," said Thompson. "

“This team has so many games coming up. A Challenge Cup semi final, big league battles and then, of course the defence of our play-off title. We have eight games in the next 16 days so having fit and healthy bodies is paramount. Injuries and suspension have hurt us this year, we have already played 34 games with five defencemen and that can’t continue if we are to have success.

“I was delighted Tony Smith (club owner) gave me the green light to add Joonas to our roster. The big man was our top plus-minus player before he left us. He is a great defensive defensemen and a fantastic penalty killer. We have missed him.”

Ronnberg said he had remained in regular contact with Thompson after first leaving the club and was glad to have found a way for him to return to the club where he proved so popular between August and November.

“I’m thrilled that we could find a way to work out a way for my return," said Ronnberg. "I have been following the team from Finland and keep in touch with many of the guys on a daily basis.

“Paul and I spoke lots, before Christmas he asked if I could see a way this return could happen and we said we would both take another look after Christmas and New Year."

HELLO AGAIN: Joonas Ronnberg, left, is reunited with defensive team-mate, Zack Fitzgerald.

HELLO AGAIN: Joonas Ronnberg, left, is reunited with defensive team-mate, Zack Fitzgerald.

Ronnberg will be in the Steelers line up for the game against Milton Keynes Lightning on Saturday.