HULL Stingrays’ player-coach Sylvain Cloutier says he is optimistic for the new Elite League campaign – despite enduring his most difficult off-season since joing the club three years ago.
While the club’s ownership issues rumbled on for weeks after Hull’s appearance at the Final Four play-off weekend in Nottingham, Cloutier admitted he found it difficult to keep his team together, let alone attract new players.
But while he may have been left with a less-experienced British contingent, the luxury of now being allowed an extra 11th import sees Cloutier confident he has more depth in his roster this time around as his team prepares for life in the top-flight’s newly-introduced northern conference.
“As a coach it was probably the toughest off-season I’ve had because I was trying to convince guys to stay and that there was going to be something here for them,” said Cloutier. “Having an extra import is good for our team. I wanted to add speed and toughness to our line-up and I think we‘ve been able to do that.
“We were playing with nine imports for most of last season so, I definitely think we’ve got a bit more depth this season having two more imports.”
Hull completed their pre-season preparations by clinching the Bradfield Brewery Cup over two legs against Sheffield Steeldogs.
Trailing 4-3 from Sunday’s first leg at Hull Arena, goals from Jereme Tendler, Cale Tanaka, Jason Silverthorn and Sam Towner ensured a 7-5 aggregate win.
Tendler put Stingrays, who welcomed captain Kurtis Dulle and new signing Jeff Smith into the line-up, in front at 6.06 but Edgars Bebris levelled for the English Premier League side three minutes later.
The speedy Tanaka - recommended to Cloutier by former Stingrays forward Andrew Coburn - nudged Stingrays back in front soone after and Silverthorn extended their advantage at 16.11.
Towner, having netted a hat-trick in Saturday’s 14-1 win over Stingrays’ National League Two North side, was on the mark again at 24.14 which proved to be the final action of the night.
Stingrays will now prepare for Saturday’s Challenge Cup tie against holders Nottingham Panthers at Hull Arena (6.30pm face-off) when they hope to have American duo Shane Lovdahl and Dominic Osman in the line-up.
A FOUR-MAN official system will be used in Challenge Cup stand-alone matches in the 2012-13 season, starting with Hull’s tie against Nottingham and other ties scheduled between Braehead Clan and Belfast Giants as well as Fife Flyers against Edinburgh Capitals.
This will cover all stand-alone group games and then the subsequent quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.
The system, which is successfully used in the NHL in North America and the majority of professional leagues throughout Europe including Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland, comes into place immediately and will be used in this weekend’s matches.