Star netminder Janis will be hugely missed

Janis Auzins in action for Phantoms.
Janis Auzins in action for Phantoms.
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Phantoms coach Slava Koulikov has paid tribute to goaltending Goliath, Janis Auzins.

The outstanding Latvian shot-stopper has been forced to leave the city club due to the import rules in place at National Ice Hockey League (NIHL) South level. Clubs are only permitted to sign two overseas players and only one of them can be on the ice at any given time.

Auzins (26) enjoyed a terrific three-year stay at Phantoms and was a stand-out performer in their English Premier League play-offs success of 2014/15.

“Janis has been our star player for three seasons,” said Koulikov.

“He gave us the chance to win every game and will be hugely missed.

“Janis was undoubtedly the best netminder in the EPL as far as I’m concerned, and was a massive part of our success.

“He is a great guy as well as being a terrific player, and I’m sure he will step up into a higher league.

“I still catch up with Janis once or twice a week and I know he has a few interesting options.

“When one door shuts, another one opens and Janis just has to choose the right one for him to walk through.”

And Koulikov is well aware of the importance of making the right signing to take over from Auzins as the club’s main man between the pipes.

“We have a key position to fill,” he added. “I always say that the goalie is at least 50 per cent of the team.

“The rules really dictate that we have to go for a British goalie.

“I’m weighing up all the available options and hope to make the right decision.”

Two other imports – Petr Stepanek and Wehebe Darge – are also confirmed departures which Koulikov admitting up to half-a-dozen Brits may also move on as he builds a new-look roster.