Ten Teams in Ten Days is the 2013/14 Chasing Dragons EIHL season preview, looking in depth at one EIHL team a day from now up until the August Bank Holiday weekend-the last weekend before the start of EIHL preseason. Today, it’s off to Humberside and the Hull Stingrays.
“we hope that restrictions vanish and let your dreams come true…”
Red Lights Flash: “The Time The Lights Went Out”
The only way is up for the Stingrays. One year after their glorious victory against Sheffield to make the playoff weekend for their first appearance, the Stingrays battled hard and manfully, but despite Sylvain Cloutier’s best efforts, they finished bottom of the EIHL itself. However, it’s not all bad news on Humberside-they have a small but dedicated fanbase that’s slowly growing again as fans warm to the hardworking hockey Sylvain Cloutier’s teams play, and young British stars like Ben Bowns, Matty Davies and Bobby Chamberlain are flourishing with responsibilities they simply wouldn’t be given at the so-called “big clubs”. So what’s in store for the team this season?
#33 Ben Bowns, #30 Greg Blais, #31 Liam Jackson
Like the Belfast Giants, the Stingrays opt to go with a British starting netminder in Sheffield product Ben Bowns, who is the heir apparent to the starting job for Great Britain and arguably one of the jewels in the British hockey crown already. The 22-year-old from Rotherham deservedly got his chance in the EIHL last season after three seasons as an EPL starter, and seized it with both hands, recording a 90.5% save percentage in 54 games despite only two goalies in the EIHL (Coventry’s Peter Hirsch and Dundee’s Nic Riopel) facing more shots. This year, with a full EIHL season under his belt, he can be expected to get better still. Behind him, Greg Blais will be available to pass on his knowledge and experience as goalie coach and provide injury cover, with local youngster Liam Jackson also available to back up and allow the Stingrays to make full use of the extra import outskater a British goalie will provide them.
#4 Jeff Smith, #5 Matt Suderman, #6 Martin Ondrej, , #11 Scott Robson, #21 Jamie Chilcott, , #22 Tom Ralph, #55 Omar Pacha, #77 Chad Huttel
The Stingrays defence this season is stronger than last, with Cloutier ranging far and wide in an attempt to get the best possible quality for the cheapest possible price. Individually, none of the names jump out at you as genuine stars, with the unit being a mixture of current Stingrays (Martin Ondrej, Jeff Smith), local youngsters (Sam Robson, Tom Ralph), former EIHLers returning from a year away (Matt Suderman, Chad Huttel) and left-field talented players plucked from semi-obscurity abroad (Jamie Chilcott, Omar Pacha). Chad Huttel and Matt Suderman in particular are very astute signings indeed-both proven EIHLers who will have flown below the rivals of many EIHL squads. Martin Ondrej and Jeff Smith are useful enough in what they do, though they’ll never tear up the offensive charts, and the Hull youngsters can expect to be used as cover where necessary and continue developing. However, the really intriguing pair are Pacha and Chilcott, two players who are unknown to the rest of the EIHL but who look to have useful offensive ability and may well be counted upon to provide the thrust forward from the blueline-Chilcott in particular has potential to be a breakout star similar to Stevie Lee in Hull a few years ago. Pacha scored a point a game in France last season from the blue-line, and will likely counted upon to be the major offensive threat. This is a unit that will have to be much greater than the sum of its parts for Hull to be successful, but it has a chance of doing so.
#10 Tom Squires, #12 Guillaume Doucet, #16 Sam Towner, #18 Sean Muncy, #21 Jason Silverthorn, #26 Matty Davies, #27 Jereme Tendler, #37 Derek Campbell, #83 Sylvain Cloutier, #90 Bobby Chamberlain, #91 Lee Bonner.
The star of the Stingrays forward group is of course Jereme Tendler-the Viceroy, Saskatchewan native has scored at an average of 70 points and 43 goals a season in his time in the EIHL, and he’ll once again be expected to take the weight of the Stingrays attack on his shoulders. However, this time round he has some very useful looking help indeed, not least in the shape of French Canadian Guillaume Doucet, who scored at nearly a point a game in the QMJHL during his junior career, and matched that rate in France the past few seasons. Jason Silverthorn may not be as quick as he used to be but he too still has a deft touch in front of net in what will likely be the Stingrays’ main attacking line. Behind him, Derek Campbell will return to provide goals and grit alongside new arrival Sean Muncy-but the player to watch here is Matty Davies-the 23-year-old local boy is quietly becoming one of the premier British forwards in the league and scored 48 points last year including 39 assists and yet was somehow still left out of the GB squad to the surprise of many-expect the little playmaking centre to have another excellent year this season. The third like will see Cloutier lead the agitator par-excellence Bobby Chamberlain and skilled forward Tom Squires to provide three balanced lines. Sam Towner will be the tenth forward as he continues his development while 16-year-old Lee Bonner will likely spend the majority of the season in the NIHL while training with the EIHL squad.
This is a better, more balanced forward group than the Stingrays had last season-if Muncy or Doucet can replace the scoring of Dominic Osman, Matty Davies can continue his rise to the top and the local youngsters can keep improving then it could be a season of promise for the Stingrays.
COACH: Sylvain Cloutier
Cloutier is a vastly experienced player who builds his teams in his own image-not flashy, but gritty and hard working. Now into his fourth season as Stingrays coach he’s become adept at using the meagre budget of the Stingrays as well as possible, and he’s happy to embrace the “underdog” mentality imposed upon the Stingrays by the rest of the EIHL. This will be another hard-working year for the man from Mont-Laurier as he looks to drag his team back up from the basement.
Jason Silverthorn-Jereme Tendler-Guillaume Doucet
Sean Muncy-Matty Davies-Derek Campbell
Bobby Chamberlain-Sylvain Cloutier-Tom Squires
Matt Suderman-Omar Pacha
Chad Huttel-Martin Ondrej
Jamie Chilcott-Jeff Smith
Scott Robson-Tom Ralph
NETMINDERS: Ben Bowns/Greg Blais (Liam Jackson)
PLAYER TO WATCH: #26 MATTY DAVIES
We’ve already mentioned the little Brit several times in this profile…but he’s a player that really deserves far more recognition than he gets from the rest of the EIHL and indeed the GB setup. Quick and skilled and playing with a physicality that often belies his small stature, Davies is one of the keys to a successful Hull squad and will be one of their main offensive drivers this season, even if he doesn’t put the puck in the net himself as often as he’d perhaps like.
Let’s be honest-nobody is picking the Stingrays to challenge for the league title. The gap in resources between those Cloutier has to work with and the likes of those enjoyed by Doug Christiansen or Corey Neilson is huge. However, the aim for the Stingrays this season isn’t as high as that-it’s simply to get off the basement of the table and make the playoffs. The Stingrays have improved, but so has the rest of the Gardiner conference and like every year it will be a battle for the Humbersiders. But the key this season is that Jereme Tendler has some strong help around him in scoring on all three lines. If the Stingrays defence can play well as a unit and Ben Bowns continues to improve at the rate he has, the playoffs are a more than realistic target. Certainly, the Stingrays will be outworked by few teams this season as they strive to defy the odds.