HULL Stingrays’ players are going to make coach Sylvain Cloutier’s decision to axe one of them as difficult as possible after their 9-4 thrashing of Braehead Clan on Wednesday night.
Furious Cloutier put his entire roster on two weeks’ notice at the weekend after a poor start to the season which had yielded only one league win.
He got the immediate response he wanted with a first-ever road win at Dundee Stars on Sunday night and was keen for his team to build on that back on home ice against Braehead, now coached by former Hull defenceman and assistant coach Drew Bannister, who succeeded Bruce Richardson in the summer.
The return of 2010-11 defenceman and captain Kurtis Dulle to the line-up in time for the visit of Braehead means Cloutier will have to release at least one of his players but, based on Wednesday night’s performance, that won’t be an easy decision.
Dulle’s arrival saw Cloutier swap his skates for a shirt and tie as he went behind the bench in order to best see which players would be staying or going.
He may decide to stay there on a permanent basis as the game was effectively over by the end of the second period as Hull’s delighted fans almost had to pinch themselves that their team was 8-3 ahead, finally realising the potential they had shown in so many of their clashes with the Elite League’s top teams.
Jason Silverthorn led the way with a hat-trick, while Dominic Osman and Frantisek Bakrlik grabbed two apiece. Jereme Tendler and captain Josh Mizerek also got on the score sheet, although the tireless Derek Campbell won the unsung hero award for chalking up four assists with a goal being the only thing lacking from his performance.
It was the kind of performance which had been threatened for some time, almost as if all of the players’ frustrations were taken out on an outworked and surprisingly lacklustre Clan side.
Given his unaccustomed ringside seat Cloutier said there were aspects of his team’s performance which were sloppy - they were in fact outshot on the night and required net minder Sylvain Boucher to be on top form again after Braehead were allowed too many clear sights of goal - but, overall, he was delighted to see them string two wins together for the first time this season.
“We know how much offence we have in that room and it was just a matter of time before it all clicked one night - tonight was that night,” said Cloutier.
“We have to make sure we take points from these kind of teams - the Braeheads, the Dundees, the Fifes, if we want to be successful. It was good to find the net so many times and it will do a lot for our confidence - it’s also two more welcome points in the league and moves us up the standings slightly.”
Cloutier had asked his players to come out hard in the first period and couldn’t have asked for a better response than a third-minute opening goal from Mizerek, although that only came after Braehead had hit the post and been denied by Boucher on a one-on-one.
Jordan Krestanovich levelled three minutes later, but the home side clicked perfectly on the return of the popular Dulle with further first-period goals coming from Jereme Tendler, Osman and Silverthorn - Mike Bayrack’s 16th-minute strike making it 4-2 to the home side at the break.
It got worse in the second period for the visitors when Bakrlik made it 5-2 at 25.00 with a short-handed strike, before the relentless Silverthorn added two more. Matt Haywood replied with a soft, preventable breakaway goal, but Osman grabbed his second of the night at the other end at 37.24 to restore the five-goal advantage.
Not surprisingly, Hull eased up in the third, while a somewhat disjointed Braehead seemed content to mount an exercise in damage limitation. It wasn’t until the 58th minute that the Stingrays increased their advantage when Bakrlik fired in a piledriver from the right-wing that flew into the top right-hand corner of Mike Will’s net, the back-up netminder having come on in the 29th minute for first-choice Jaakko Suomalainen, who was pulled after Hull’s sixth goal.
Haywood grabbed his second of the night with another soft goal to make it 9-4 in the final minute, but it was a night to forget for the returning Bannister, leaving him and his players plenty to contemplate on the long coach ride back to Glasgow.