COVENTRY BLAZE will take to the ice for their first pre-season game of the 2016/17 campaign on Wednesday against the Nottingham Panthers, and we’ve put together a list of what Blaze fans can expect this season.
Pietrus replaces Tait as skipper:
Long-time skipper of the Coventry Blaze Ashley Tait decided to step down from his role as Blaze skipper earlier this year, and promising forward Jordan Pietrus admitted he was honoured to secure the new role.
The 30-year-old, who was drafted in for the Blaze towards the start of last year’s campaign by former head coach Chuck Weber, proved an immediate hit with the fans and his appointment as captain was warmly welcomed.
We know Pietrus and Blaze head coach Danny Stewart have a strong working relationship as Stewart previously attempted to recruit the forward while playing in Newcastle and Fife.
While dropping his role as skipper, Tait has announced he will not only represent the Blaze on the ice this season – but off the ice too.
The GB star will act as assistant coach to Stewart while also taking on a backroom office role with responsibilities for the commercial side of the club – though he still has no intentions of retiring.
Kevin Noble, David Clements, Josh Godfrey and Jim Jorgensen are the four D-men to remain with the Blaze this season.
Noble, who built a reputation in the league last year and was always in the thick of the action, has one-year remaining of his two-year contract – there’s no doubt he’ll be relishing the prospect of playing the likes of Nottingham and Cardiff again.
Clements proved to play some big minutes last year, and who can forget that superstitious face-off against Cardiff in last season’s Playoff Semi Final?
Godfrey will be hoping to produce more of his 90mph wonder shots from the blue line and Jim Jorgensen proved a consistent player.
Of the forwards, Jordan Pietrus and Brett Robinson remain while Brits Ross Venus, Russ Cowley and Ashley Tait will continue to work with their magical forward line.
Goaltenders Brian Stewart and Renny Marr also remain.
One of the biggest losses from last season will be Chris Bruton – who starred in Coventry’s stunning 6-2 win over Cardiff Devils in the Playoff Semi-Final, scoring a superb hat-trik.
Cale Tanaka is another former player to depart, the 30-year-old will ice for Dundee this season, while Drew Fisher’s shock retirement from the sport will also be a sad loss to the club.
The unmissable figure of Boris Valabik also makes way while Brendan Walker – who scored two stunning goals against Sheffield during last season’s campaign – also departs.
Nine new players will ice for the Blaze this year – one to look out for is Robin Bergman who we’ve been told is ‘something else’.
Bergman joins on the back of an impressive run where the 28-year-old has typically scored in half of games he’s appeared in.
Among other signings is Liam Stewart – who hit the national headlines when signing for the Blaze in May as his father is the great rockstar Rod Stewart.
Matt Selby returns full time for Blaze while forwards Matt Marquardt, Garret Klotz, Bjorn Bombis and Darcy Zajac complete the new look forward line.
Marc Cantin and Shawn Boutin are the only new defencemen recruited to the roster.
Success this year could rest on the quality of the new imports – sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t.
We all know the capability of those players remaining.
Brian Stewart is likely to be a key man as ever – his incredible shot-stopping ability saved the Blaze on dozens of occasions last season, Blaze fans will be hoping for more of the same this year.
Coach Danny Stewart will certainly be looking for more consistency from his men on the road this season.
Former coach Chuck Weber stated on multiple occasions the Blaze were slow starters last year – both in the league and individual games.
Coventry’s first pre-season game is this Sunday (August 24) when they take on the Nottingham Panthers before further home fixtures against Tilburg and Cardiff.
The Blaze kick-off their Elite Ice Hockey League campaign on Sunday (September 11) against Belfast at the Skydome, 5.15pm face-off.