Leadership qualities come to the fore for Hull Pirates | Sheffield Steeldogs look to bounce back after being stung by Bracknell Bees

Hull Pirates' player-coach, Dominic Osman.
Hull Pirates' player-coach, Dominic Osman.
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DOMINIC OSMAN has hailed the widespread leadership among his players as a key ingredient behind Hull Pirates’ early-season success in the English Premier League this season.

The East Yorkshire club sit third in the standings, five points behind leaders Telford Tigers.

Sheffield Steeldogs' player-coach Greg Wood.

Sheffield Steeldogs' player-coach Greg Wood.

A four-point weekend last time out - including inflicting a 6-0 defeat on their Shropshire rivals - has helped reinforce the belief that Hull intend sticking around for the long haul in terms of the title race in this, only their second season.

As has been well documented, last year’s debut as a club was a huge struggle, particularly given the short amount of time the club had to put a team together after agreeing to take over the ice hockey franchise following the demise of the Hull Stingrays.

But, a full summer of recruitment for player-coach Osman and owner Shane Smith has clearly paid dividends, with the 34-year-old American he almost ended up with a complete wishlist in terms of the players he targeted.

But it is the key experience of players like former Sheffield Steelers’ forward Jason Hewitt and others like defenceman Lee Haywood and imports including Slovakian forward Andrej Themar, the league’s leading points scorer, that has proved the driving force behind Pirates’ early-season success.

“We’ve got a lot of leadership in our locker room and a lot of different types of leaders with different kinds of qualities,” said Osman, now in his second year as a player-coach.

“We had a lot of younger guys last year and we expected a lot from some guys, maybe too much. It was a tough season last year, obviously, we didn’t have a lot of time to put a team together, but this year we’ve been able to build a team properly, looking all summer long at players that were available.

“We then put a list together and, fortunately, we got most of the guys on our list.

“And when you are able to bring in a team with such quality and the right leadership it just helps the room out that much more. This year is definitely better in that respect than where we were last year.”

One example of the leadership Osman is so enthused about could be seen earlier this week when captain Nathan Salem received made his senior GB debut against Norway.

The 25-year-old joined Hull last season from Telford but, during the summer, Osman said he had seen enough to persuade him that the forward was someone ideally placed to lead from the front.

“He brings a lot to the table,” added Osman. “He’s a guy who is going to lead by example. He’s generally a quiet guy, he’s not the kind of guy who will go out there and try to get everybody going by shouting a lot, but he’s just one of those who leads by what he does out there on the ice - that is something we really wanted this year.”

Hull have only the one fixture to worry about this weekend when they host bottom club Bracknell Bees on Sunday (5pm).

But despite the difference in position and points, Osman insisted his players would not be allowed to take anything for granted at Hull Ice Arena, particularly after the Berkshire club won 3-0 on the road at Sheffield Steeldogs on Thursday night.

“There’s no way we would go into any game against any team thinking like that (being over-confident),” said OSman. “We had Manchester twice in the past week or so and I don’t think there was any hint of us taking them lightly, especially when they came to us - I was really happy with the way that the guys treated the game.

“The way that we handled playing Manchester as a team was great. And that is what we’re going to do again this weekend.”

Steeldogs player-coach Greg Wood will rally his players following Thursday night’s setback at Ice Sheffield, where a win would have taken them above Swindon Wildcats and into sixth place.

The hosts fell behind to an eighth-minute opener from Luka Basic before second period strikes Josh Smith and Olegs Lascenko sealed the points for the Bees.

Wood was clearly far from pleased with his players efforts, saying afterwards: “I will apologise for anyone that paid to watch that tonight, it simply wasn’t good enough. We will be better.”

Like Hull, the Steeldogs have just the one game to worry about this weekend when they pay a first visit of the season to Guildford on Sunday.

The one previous meeting between the two went the way of Sheffield when they prevailed 5-3 at Ice Sheffield on September 24.

Before the two meet again on Sunday in Surrey, the Flames have the chance to leapfrog their South Yorkshire rivals in the standings if they can come out on top from their visit to Basingstoke Bison the previous night.