Fife Flyers captain Justin DaCosta has leapt to the defence of team mate Matt Nickerson over his recent Elite League suspension.
Nickerson was back in the headlines this week after seeing his original 12-game ban for an excessive roughness incident during the match against Braehead Clan on December 14 reduced to nine games following an appeal.
The Flyers hard man has split public opinion since arriving in the UK with his physical style landing him 184 penalty minutes, including four match penalties, in 22 appearances.
But DaCosta played alongside the big American at Finnish club KooKoo last season and he believes him to be one of the top defencemen in the league.
“People can say what they want about him, but he’s played at top leagues around the world, and done it for a reason - because he’s a good player,” DaCosta said.
“He’s not just one of the toughest guys around, he actually brings a lot to the table, he skates with the puck and can make plays.
“When you miss a guy like that for an extended period of time it definitely hurts the team. I’ve seen a lot worse, for a lot less suspension.”
Flyers certainly could have done with Nickerson’s presence over the weekend as they lost back-to-back games against rivals Dundee Stars.
Speaking after the home defeat on Saturday, DaCosta added: “It definitely wasn’t our best performance and that’s frustrating, especially when you see the support we got from the fans.
“The last month has been good for us and we feel we’ve been turning a corner. Tonight we just didn’t bring it.
“Some teams can get by with maybe a couple of passengers every game. But with us we need everyone to battle in every game, and that didn’t happen for three periods tonight.
“All we can do now is prepare for upcoming games and make sure every one of us is putting our best foot forward.
“This is our play-offs right now with all the conference games we’ve got, but the guys in here know that. It’s not as if we’re coming to the rink without confidence.
“The guys definitely have confidence. We’ve proved we can battle, play and win against the biggest teams in the league.”