ICE HOCKEY: COVENTRY Blaze head coach Danny Stewart has moved to fill the club’s previously vacant number one netminder slot by signing Kevin Nastiuk from German club Dresdner Eislöwen.
Standing at 6’1″ tall, Nastiuk joins the Blaze on the back of a chart-topping season with the German side which saw him post a league best save percentage of 93.78 per cent and goals-against average of 1.99.
Despite missing parts of last season due to a broken thumb, the 31-year-old has fully recovered from last season’s injury and will land in Coventry for the start of pre-season training in August.
Nastiuk will also take full advantage of the Coventry University Business School by studying for an MSc in Sport Management.
In total, the left-hand catcher has spent four years in the DEL2, three with Dresdner Eislöwen and a single season with Heilbronner Falken, totalling 166 regular season and playoff games.
Nastiuk’s time in Germany has also been spent in the DEL, the country’s top-division where over three seasons with Eisbären Berlin, he helped the club to back-to-back Championships in 2010/11 and 2011/12, plus a European Trophy in 2011.
His experience in Berlin also extends to two games in the Champions Hockey League.
Before moving to Germany in 2010, Nastiuk’s pro-career was spent between the ECHL and AHL.
In the near 100 ECHL regular season and Kelly Cup playoff games, the confident stick-handling goalie regularly posted an impressive save-percentage over 91 per cent.
Prior to turning pro, Nastiuk had a solid four-year junior career with Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL.
Impressing in the CHL Top Prospects game in his second season, he was selected by the Carolina Hurricanes in the fourth round of the 2003 NHL entry draft.
Despite never icing in the NHL, Nastiuk experienced the show five times as a back-up in 2005 and was also later invited to the training camp of Boston Bruins in 2008.
Head coach Danny Stewart said Nastiuk’s appointment comes after the team considered several options.
He added: “Kevin is a proven winner at very good levels and is coming off arguably his best season statistically.
“A lot of his references were similar and that’s always a good sign.
“He’s a steady guy back there who doesn’t let much phase him, which sends that confidence to the guys in front of him.
“He has that bounce-back-ability from game-to-game and within games, and that’s very important here in the UK with the workload and importance of the league.
“A further strength that really attracted me to Kevin was his ability to play the puck.
“Having a goalie who is confident to do that helps to prevent teams playing more in our zone.
“Opposition will have to be smarter as to what areas they put pucks and our defence will hopefully take less contact, plus it helps with transition as well.”
Nastiuk said: “I’m really looking forward to the new opportunity in the UK.
“I have played six years in Germany and I have thoroughly enjoyed living in Europe.
“Coventry has had lots of success in the past and I’m looking towards having a great season.
“I’m a calm goalie who relies on technique and quickness.
“I’ve heard Coventry has great fans and I look forward to playing in front of them for the upcoming season.”
Pictures: Dresdner Eislöwen.