Hull Stingrays’ new player-coach Omar Pacha has made finding a “star” goaltender his main priority for the 2014-15 campaign.
The 27-year-old was chosen to succeed Sylvain Cloutier, who left the club last month by mutual consent after five successful years at the helm.
Defenceman Pacha will work with new player-assistant coach Carl Lauzon, both of whom were brought to the club by Cloutier last season, proving to be two of the team’s most effective players as Hull reached the play-offs and finished runners-up in the Gardiner Conference.
Confirmation of Pacha’s and Lauzon’s appointments came hours after British goaltender Ben Bowns departed the club after two years to sign for Elite League rivals Cardiff Devils.
Stingrays fans’ dismay at Cloutier’s surprise exit was tempered by news last week of British forward Matty Davies committing himself to the club for the next three years.
But reports of a rival group’s interest in running ice hockey in Hull next season, combined with fierce criticism from former captain Matt Suderman over the treatment of players by the current ownership, has increased the pressure on owner Bobby McEwan.
However, Canadian-born Pacha insisted he was happy with the club’s situation having had long discussions with McEwan and was intent on staying focussed solely on on-ice issues over the next few weeks as he starts to put together a competitive roster for the new season – starting at the back.
“I liked Bownsy a lot, but I want to upgrade too,” he said.
“My objective is to get better than him for next season, so the priority for us at the moment, to find that stud goalie.
“I’ve been looking since my appointment was confirmed here and I’ve already sent out three or four emails to different guys who I think would potentially be stars in this league.”
To listen to our interview with Hull Stingrays’ new player-coach Omar Pacha go HERE
Pacha, who posted 49 points in 61 games last season, including 12 goals, first spoke with McEwan about succeeding Cloutier at the weekend and, after a little hesitation over whether the step up to player-coach was too early, he decided he was the right man for the job.
Ensuring Lauzon will be working alongside him next season, he said, was crucial in his final decision.
“I enjoyed my time with Clouts last season, he’s probably the best coach I’ve played with and I played one of my better seasons under him – he’s a guy I really respect,” said Pacha.
“I guess I was as shocked as anyone when he left, he’s done such a great job here and I was very surprised.
“I hesitated at first when Bobby asked me to take over because I wasn’t sure if was ready for something like this. But I decided it would be a good opportunity for me and I have the confidence to do it. I wanted Carl to be named right away as my player-assistant and that’s when we got the deal done.
“I’m happy with what I’ve been told by Bobby. I think there’s a lot of potential here in Hull and we have a good chance of making something special here.”