KURTIS Dulle believes the potential for Hull Stingrays to make great strides up the Elite League table is huge.
The 31-year-old Canadian defenceman returned to the Hull Arena in time for Wednesday night’s 9-4 thrashing of Braehead Clan, the Stingrays’ biggest and most convincing win in what has been a disappointing season so far.
What player-coach Sylvain Cloutier’s team had been threatening to do for weeks finally became a reality as former Hull defenceman Drew Bannister - now coach of Braehead - endured a nightmare first return to East Yorkshire.
For Dulle, who captained Hull during the 2010-11 season before heading Down Under to play in the Australian Hockey League during the summer, the comfortable margin of victory was clear evidence that Cloutier’s team can make a big impact this season.
“I didn’t really know what I was getting into this time,” said Dulle. “I mean you can look at tables and stats and all that but, being out on the ice with them, I could see players that were confident, and patient with the puck.
“When you’re out there on the ice you can feel it, you can tell whether a team has either got it or not and this team is definitely not out of making a significant move up the standings.”
Dulle’s arrival means that one import player is heading for the exit door although that decision by Cloutier - who was behind the bench on Wednesday night - was made harder by his team’s impressive performance.
Cloutier put his entire roster on two weeks’ notice during the second interval of last week’s 3-2 home defeat to fellow strugglers Edinburgh Capitals. A 2-1 win at Dundee Stars and the next performance in front of their own fans could not have been more different.
Cloutier will spend at least one more game in his suit and tie, a position he admits gives him a better view of who is and isn’t pulling their weight out on the ice.
That means the Hull boss will sit out again at bottom-of-the-table Fife Flyers on Saturday night, but could return to the ice for the visit of leaders Belfast Giants on Sunday night (6pm), a team they have pushed close on two occasions already this season home and away.
“You do see so much more of what is going on when you’re up there instead of being out on the ice,” said Cloutier. “But I do want to be out there on the ice as well. I’ll stick with it for the Fife game but we’ll see what happens after that.
“I thought the team played really well and we finally got some bounces. There were a couple of soft goals but if we produce another performance like the one on Wednesday we’ll stand a good chance of winning in Fife. But if we play like we did when Fife came to our place recently, we’ll struggle again.”
Dulle – who played against Braehead having arrived on the morning of the game following a 21-hour journey - said the confidence gained from two successive wins would do wonders for the Stingrays’ morale, particularly after going so close against a number of the league’s top teams in recent weeks.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are, confidence is huge,” he added. “It can take one little thing and you can just lose your confidence so quickly.
“It can happen on one short shift, if you get scored on and you give the puck away that’s the difference - particularly for the younger guys.
“But if those younger guys can get past that and then turn that switch off when they mess up and just get back on the ice and go (as if nothing has happened) they are only going to get better.
“Against Braehead I just saw a team that was calm and comfortable. We need to be like that as often as possible and it was a good way to go into the weekend.”