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Russian-born players look to make impact for Steel

NEW ULM — For the first time in the history of the New Ulm Steel, two Russian-born players are on the roster.

Denis Denisov and Stanislav Danaev are forwards this season.

Denisov was born in Khabarovsk, Russia while Danaev is from Moskova, Russia.

“Danaev played last year for the Fresno (California) Monsters in the Western States Hockey League (WSHL),” Steel coach Zach Stepan said. “He is a very skilled player that is an absolute workhorse — he is literally a coach’s dream. He is always out doing extra work, putting in the time. Every drill in practice, every game, every shift he is working as hard as he possibly can.”

Danaev started his hockey career with the U-18 Vityaz Podolsk U-18 team and the Fenix PMGMU team in 2016-17. In 10 games, he scored 18 goals and added 25 assists.

He jumped to the Aviatory MAI Moskva team in 2017-18 before joining Fresno last season. In Fresno, he played 43 games last year and ended with a career-high 26 goals with 26 helpers.

“I am very excited to see what he can do this year with the Steel,” Stepan said.

In three games with the Steel, he has scored four goals and added two assists.

Denis Denisov just joined the Steel last week.

“We finally got the transfer paperwork for him all completed,” Stepan said. “He was able to play last weekend — he had a nice assist to Tae Evans for a goal. He has only played that one game, so it will be interesting to see how he does this weekend (at Granite City). He was at the Chippewa Falls training camp and he was a player that we were looking at. He is an older player but I am glad that we were able to bring him here. He came to us — his agent reached out to us. He and his father drove down from Canada where he played last year — we liked him, we wanted to keep him so we got his transfer paperwork all squared away. He was a Russian player who played in Canada last season — so it took some time to get all of that paperwork competed.”

Stepan said that he commends the two for their work so far and the situations they have had to deal with.

“It is a tough thing to do to be a Russian born player and playing in two different countries in Canada and the United States,” Stepan said. “You commend them on being able to do that and you have to respect the fact that they are willing to do that to try and further their careers. It is not an easy task — it is hard, different when you are an American player and moving around to play hockey here or in Canada. But it is very hard when you are dealing with language barriers and different cultures.”

The Steel (2-1) are on the road again on Saturday when they play at Granite City (3-1).

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