Sheffield Steelers move Pavel Kantor out as Elite League brings in changes for 2020-21

GONE: Pavel Kantor in action during a Challenge Cup defeat at Manchester Storm. Picture: Mark Ferriss.
GONE: Pavel Kantor in action during a Challenge Cup defeat at Manchester Storm. Picture: Mark Ferriss.
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SHEFFIELD STEELERS insist they will be in the market for a replacement import netminder after axing Pavel Kantor - just not immediately.

The 28-year-old was released on Wednesday morning after failing to establish himself at FlyDSA Arena under head coach Aaron Fox, who had brought in him as one of two Czech-born goalies in the summer.

But while Tomas Duba has prospered and effectively made the No 1 slot his own, Kantor has struggled, losing four out of the five games he has started and posting a save percentage of just 82.79 per cent, with a goals against average of 4.45.

The move leaves 38-year-old Duba as the leading man between the pipes, with 18-year-old William Kerlin continuing to play the back-up role as he has on match nights this season.

“With the strong play of Tomáš Duba so far we felt like this was the right decision to make at this time," said Fox. "We will still be looking for a import goalie to come in at some point soon to support Duba as part of a goalie tandem.

"Tomas has played so well over the last six weeks that it’s been hard to find games to give Pavel an opportunity to find his game again.

CHANGING PLANS: Sheffield Steelers' head coach and GM, Aaron Fox. Picture: Dean Woolley.

CHANGING PLANS: Sheffield Steelers' head coach and GM, Aaron Fox. Picture: Dean Woolley.

"And with us needing the injury cover defensively for Aaron Johnson and Jonas Liwing this just made sense for us at this time. We wish Pavel nothing but the best and thank him for his time and effort here."

Elsewhere, the Elite League has announced significant rule changes concerning match-day bench strength which will come in from next season.

The moves have been made in an attempt, in part, "to level the playing field" according to Mike Hicks, the EIHL's director of hockey operations, as well as allow more homegrown talent to develop to help ensure the recent successes enjoyed by the Great Britain's men's team can be maintained and repeated in the future.

For the 2020-21 season, the number of imports that can dress on game night will reduce by one to 13, while the maximum bench strength will drop from 19 senior players including import and British players plus three under-23 British players, to 17 seniors plus three British under-25s, players born in 1995 or after.

The reduction in bench size is in line with the NHL and AHL, say the league, and it is intended that the reduction in bench strength ensures coaches use and play more of the players dressed for each game.

Hicks said the change from 23 and under to 25 and under was intended to give British players more time to develop their talent/

“The view of the board, and also many coaches, is that a player is still not fully developed by the age of 23," he explained.

“We want to give those players an extra two seasons to prove why they are worthy of a place on an Elite League roster, rather than forcing coaches into decisions when players are only 24.

"Also, players that have gone overseas for college or university generally return home around the age of 22 to 23. With this rule change, we’re also giving them more opportunity to prove themselves.”

One other change to be implemented for 2020-21 will see a cap in the number of imports any team can sign during the course of the season. Teams will be limited to a total of 18 imports , with an additional 19th import signing being allowed if it relates to a netminder.

“The purpose of this change is to create more parity regarding transfers within a season," added Hicks. "This puts the onus on recruitment in the off-season. Budgets will always be different in any sports league, but by limiting the number of changes teams can make, we are aiming to level the playing field more.”