Janis Ozolins' double ends Hull Stingrays' eight-game losing run
HULL Stingrays' coach Sylvain Cloutier says he has never had any doubts that Janis Ozolins would make the grade at Elite League level.
The Latvian wowed fans in the English Premier League last season, playing for Sheffield Steeldogs, before signing for Stingrays in the summer.
He has been a stand-out star so far with 16 points from 14 games – including two goals in Saturday's 4-3 win over Dundee.
Cloutier said: "We knew Janis had a knack for goalscoring.
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"I told him when he signed for us he had to use his strengths of shooting the puck and creating chances.
"He's done a great job for us so far."
Ozolins' Saturday double snapped an eight-game losing streak and lifted Rapid Solicitors Stingrays off the foot of the table.
Ozolins' classy double, plus a blast from the blueline by Jeff Smith and a smart finish from Jason Silverthorn put Stingrays 4-1 ahead after 43 minutes, with Ben Bowns saving a second-period penalty shot from Mike Wirll.
However, Billy Bagron's second strike and AJ MacLean's first set the nerves jangling in the final 12 minutes.
Stingrays held on for their first win over the Stars in four attempts this season.
"The win gave us confidence. Dundee had had our number but we found a way to win this time," said Cloutier.
"After eight defeats we just wanted those two points."
Stingrays accomplished the win without captain Kurtis Dulle, who was taken to hospital on Saturday with a stomach bug and was kept in over the weekend for tests.
"Losing Kurtis was a big blow for us, he is a big part of our team," said Cloutier.
Dulle also missed last night's 4-2 defeat in Sheffield.
Jeff Legue scored the only goal of a tight first period.
Steelers lost Tom Sestito on 23 minutes on a checking to the head match penalty that saw Andy Ward stretchered off.
Colin Shields put Sheffield 2-0 up with a 32nd-minute powerplay goal before Matty Davies opened Stingrays' account with a 36th-minute shorthander.
Ozolins netted a powerplay leveller on 42 minutes, but Matt Stephenson and Rod Sarich scored powerplay efforts in the last 10 minutes to seal Steelers' 4-2 win.
Cloutier said: "We knew we needed our two league points on Saturday.
"We battled last night, but now we've got to re-group to face Fife on Saturday."