I don't know what his stare and focus are like when someone is trying to score a goal on him, but Niilo Ventela had one of the most infectious smiles in Steele County Blades locker room. The native of Sakyla, Finland has signed a professional contract with a Swedish hockey team, the Blades announced via Twitter this week.

Ventela spent two seasons playing the the Blades in Owatonna, recovering from a knee injury during the off-season in between those two seasons. He spoke with me about coming back from that disappointment in order to continue his career.

In the news release from the team, Ventela states, "I have to thank coach Adamek, his staff, and all my teammates with the Blades for giving me a good place to grow as a person, and as an athlete. A special thanks needs to go out to my amazing billet families that invested in me as a person from day one. It is unbelievable to think that I have made so many friends on the other side of the world."

Blades coach Nick Adamek says, "We are so happy for Niilo to get this opportunity. Niilo is a leader that people want to follow. His competitive attitude and work ethic both on and off the ice have paid off. He has worked so hard over the past two seasons to get to this point and we are so happy he gets to prove to the world just how good of a goal tender he is."

Ventela made 33 overall appearances for the Blades, posting a 4.98 goals-against average and .894 saves percentage.

In other Blades' hockey news, four-year veteran Jake Freise recently committed to play college hockey. Owatonna High School graduate Carter Broton also made a college commitment after one season skating with Steele County.