The off-ice report

Monday, 5th June 2006

It's been a busy week of signings in the Elite League this past week, with Manchester, Cardiff, Newcastle and Nottingham all adding to their rosters.  Edinburgh's loss is once again Manchester's gain, with new Phoenix Coach Tony Hand signing up former Capitals team-mate Mike Sandbeck, as reported on this website last week.  So far there has been no news as to Hand's replacement up in Edinburgh, and no signing news.

The new Nottingham Coach Mike Ellis has made quite a splash already by announcing four signings for his Panthers team.  The much speculated (in Newcastle at least) destination of Vipers duo Matus Petricko and Jan Krajicek has been announced, with Coach Ellis confirming the signing of the pair for the forthcoming season, along with Danny Meyers and Geoff Woolhouse.  Meyers joins the Panthers after a spell with Bracknell Bees, where he played under Ellis last season, and Woolhouse returns to fill his back-up netminder position with Nottingham for another season.  "I'm really pleased with all four signings," says Coach Ellis.  "Each of these guys fits the criteria I am looking for as we try to build a winning formula for the fans."

Newcastle Vipers have been quick to plug the gap left by the departing Petricko and Krajicek, with the announcement of the signings of defenceman Pavol Mihalik from Coventry Blaze, and forward Jim Shepherd from Basingstoke Bison.  Vipers Coach Rob Wilson reveals that a part of his recruit is keeping tabs on players that he has faced on the ice previously, saying "We have had a look at some opposition players that caused us problems when we faced them.  One of these was Pavol Mihalik, he was a guy that really impressed me every time we played Coventry."  Speaking of Shepherd, Coach Wilson says "Jim's a guy that really impressed me last season, every single time we played Basingstoke I was impressed with his work ethic and his ability to get underneath our skin.  There wasn't many players who could do that last year, but he was one of them and this really made me notice what a valuable addition he could be for us."

Basingstoke Bison have also lost the services of British forward Tony Redmond, who has signed for Slough Jets.

Cardiff Devils have captured two players from rival teams over the last seven days, with Paul Sample making the jump from Sheffield Steelers and Dion Darling moving in from Nottingham.  Sample, who iced for the Devils previously when they played in the BNL in the 2001-2002 season, has played in the Elite League for Belfast Giants before moving across to Sheffield for two seasons.  Devils Coach Ed Patterson sees the signing of Sample as an investment in the future, saying "He is a great energy player who is fantastic in the locker room.  I'm hoping with some renewed confidence his scoring touch will come back."

Coach Patterson is also very pleased with the signing of Dion Darling, whom he sees as a central role player for the club.  "He is a big, strong, tough, solid d-man that also has good playmaking ability," says Coach Patterson. "He is one of those guys who does everything well and I'll look for him to play in every key situation."  Darling played for Sheffield for three seasons before moving to Nottingham last season.

With the arrival of Sample and Darling comes the news of the departure of Peter Aubrey, with the Cardiff netminder signing on with Moskitos Essen in Germany.

Belfast Giants have confirmed the return of two fan favourites for the forthcoming season, with the signings of Jason Ruff and Todd Kelman.  Ruff left Belfast midway through last season with a suspected groin injury, but feels he is ready to return to the ice, saying "I've been continuing to keep in shape whilst receiving treatment for what turned out to be a hernia and I'm confident I'll be ready to ice in September."  Ruff went on to say "I'm excited about working with Ed Courtenay again and believe we can put together another League winning team, at the very least."   Coach Courtenay is pleased to see Ruff returning, saying "Jason was an exceptional player and Assistant Coach last season and made a massive contribution to the early match results and points, which helped us win the League Championship."

Speaking of the return of defenceman Todd Kelman, Coach Courtenay was quick to praise the long-serving Giant.  "Todd is a solid defender and excellent skater who handles the puck well and has a very quick and accurate first pass.  He patrols the blue line particularly well to kill penalties and avoids taking unnecessary penalty minutes."  Kelman has been with the Giants since they first took to the ice, back at the start of the 2000-2001 season, but his longevity wasn't a deciding factor in his re-signing, according to Coach Courtenay. "Kelman has played a huge part in the repeat success of Coors Giants teams and it won't surprise anyone that I wanted him back this year.  His return, however, is based purely on his performance last year and my belief that he'll repeat that performance this season."

by Richard Allan