Nico set to shine on bigger ice

Friday, 31st July 2015

Manchester Phoenix Head Coach Tony Hand believes the bigger ice surface at Deeside will be a major benefit for new signing Nico Aaltonen.

Hand’s latest capture was unveiled during the Phoenix shirt launch on Friday night, as hundreds of fans packed out a meeting at the Mercure Hotel in Piccadilly.

The 27-year-old forward, who has spent much of his career playing at the top level in Finland, joins a Phoenix squad that will boast four import forwards.

Hand is looking forward to seeing Aaltonen spread his wings on the Olympic-sized ice pad at Manchester’s temporary home in North Wales.

He said: “Nico came to our attention recently, but he has played 199 games in the Finnish Liiga, which is one of the best leagues in the world.

“For a 26-year-old guy to have that much experience, against some extremely tough sides, means he is obviously a very good player.

“He’s a great all-rounder and will score goals from all over the rink. This is a really smart guy who will compete every night for us.

“There is no point bringing in smaller guys into this team and while we are playing out of Deeside, there will be a lot more room.

“We have been looking for mobile players who are good on the puck, on a big ice pad. Nico certainly fits into that category.”

Aaltonen has also made several appearances for Finland’s under-20s side, scoring three goals at the world championships in 2008.

The announcement came as a surprise to fans at the shirt launch – but for Hand, that served as proof of the club’s strength, following a summer of major changes.

He added: “There must have been nearly 300 fans here tonight, which is quite humbling. We know it has been a tough summer, so to see so many people here supporting us is brilliant.”

The Phoenix start their pre-season campaign with a trip to face Swindon Wildcats August 29th, before the return game at Deeside Ice Rink the next day.