Wood quick to return to his place among the Elite

DANNY Wood admits he may have a point to prove after returning to the Elite League with Hull Stingrays.

The 23-year-old forward exited top-flight rivals Sheffield Steelers back in early December after finding ice time difficult to come by under head coach Ryan Finnerty.

He was quickly snapped up by second tier neighbours Sheffield Steeldogs but, after just five weeks under player-coach Andre Payette, has decided the time is right to make a return to the UK’s top flight.

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He will jump right into action with Sylvain Cloutier’s strugglers this weekend as they head to Scotland to face Gardiner Conference rivals Braehead Clan and Edinburgh Capitals as they look to make up ground on the teams above them.

With training ice time for the Steeldogs limited to just a couple of sessions a week, Wood had already been joining in practice sessions with the Stingrays since the beginning of the year, leading to his decision to make the move permanent.

“It honestly felt really natural as soon as I got there,” said Sheffield-born Wood, who initially made his debut for the Steelers as a bright-eyed 15-year-old before heading to North America for a career in college hockey.

“The guys have been really good with me and Clouts has been honest with me all along and gave me a chance to prove myself with some of his top guys in practice pretty much right away.

“We got talking and agreed that it was a good time for me move back up to the top flight – it was always my intention to get back into the Elite League as soon as possible.

“But I can’t speak highly enough about Andre and the Steeldogs. The five weeks I’ve spent there have been really beneficial and it says a lot about them that they were willing to let another one of their top Brits leave.

“He was disappointed to see me go but he’s a coach who certainly doesn’t try to stand in the way of a player who wants to go and try out at a higher level.

“I guess I feel like I’ve got something to prove at this level, but then you do at various times throughout your playing career.

“This is a good opportunity to show I can play at this level and I feel like I’m at the right club to do that.”

Wood had impressed during his short spell at ice Sheffield, contributing two goals and nine assists in 13 games as he worked well with line-mates Lubomir Korhon and Andrew Hirst. He becomes the third Steeldogs player to arrive in Hull in the last two months, following fellow forward Tom Squires and defenceman Dmitri Rodin who, after being released by the South Yorkshire club had a short spell at Telford Tigers before returning to East Yorkshire where he played last season.

Goaltender Ben Bowns and forward Janis Ozolins also moved to Hull from the Steeldogs last summer.

While clearly disappointed to see Wood leave, Payette said his main concern was getting his remaining players to perform consistently enough to make the EPL play-offs.

“Danny has got to do what he thinks is best for him and I wish him all the best at Hull,” said Payette.

“He’s a quick player and impressed me during his short time here. He was adapting quickly to the EPL style of hockey and it is unfortunate to see him leave.

“But we’re probably the only organisation in the country that doesn’t stand in the way of its players who feel they can progress elsewhere.

“It is my job to work with the players that are here with the Steeldogs, though, and try to get the best out of them all. We now have to try harder to make a run at the play-offs.”

The immediate benefit for Cloutier will be the additional depth Wood’s arrival brings to his forward lines, with Wood – who will go straight into the line-up for this weekend’s Scottish double-header against Braehead Clan and Edinburgh Capitals – comfortably expected to make up for the lack of ice time he experienced at Steelers.

“It became clear that Danny wanted to get back into the Elite League and I’ve been impressed with him since he started practising with us,” said Cloutier.

“He’s a good skater and with what I’ve seen already and through talking to other people, I think he’ll be a good fit for us.

“He struggled for minutes over at the Steelers earlier this season, but he’ll be getting plenty of ice time here as well as playing in all key situations.

“He gives us options and three balanced lines.”