“Picking up the pieces, now where to begin? The hardest part of ending is starting again…”
Linkin Park: “Waiting For The End”.
Hull Stingrays are a team in transition. After the loss of inspirational coach Sylvain Cloutier over the off-season, top scorers Jereme Tendler and Guillaume Doucet and also star British goalie Ben Bowns, new rookie coach Omar Pacha faced a heck of a task-to rebuild a Hull squad decimated by bigger teams swooping in to pluck the choicest fruit, from scratch. The Stingrays, traditionally one of the league’s smaller squads, are desperately trying to compete again this year, but a preseason 6-3 loss to the EPL’s Peterborough Phantoms means they started slowly. But what do the Stingrays look like, and how have they moved on from the shadow of Sylvain Cloutier’s reign?
#30 David Brown, #1 David Good
The Stingrays netminding duties will fall square on the shoulders of 29-year-old Ontarian David Brown this season. The former Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick hasn’t got the most impressive CV among EIHL goalies, spending the majority of his career in the Central Hockey League and seemingly spending a lot of it as a rotational or backup after a good college career, but it’s decent enough. He’ll have to carry the workload as behind him is 17-year-old Hull junior player David Good, who will not be expected to take part in any games unless Brown is injured or the Stingrays are romping away score-wise.
#2 Omar Pacha, #8 Kurtis Dulle, #11 Scott Robson, #14 Tom Ralph, #15 Jamie Chilcott, #51 CJ Chartrain, #85 Yan Turcotte
Again, this is a defence clearly put together on a budget far below that of many EIHL teams-player coach Pacha and Hull hero Kurtis Dulle are the offensive pair, while the steel is provided by newly-arrived Canadians CJ Chartrain and Yan Turcotte. Turcotte is the one with the more illustrious/experienced CV, although a career spent mainly as a plugging physical defenceman/enforcer in Quebec’s LNAH is a relative term-Chartrain has only one pro season under his belt, with the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye, where he was -20 in 61 games…worrying stats for a defenceman (although in his defence, the Walleye as a whole were AWFUL). Rounding out the defensive group are young Brits Scott Robson and Tom Ralph and the intriguing Jamie Chilcott, who looked useful at times last season after being brought back from North America-the Hull native got 6 points and will be hoping to get himself a regular 5th dman shift once again this season.
#7 Cory Tanaka, #9 Dominic Osman, #16 Sam Towner, #19 Carl Lauzon, #26 Matty Davies, #41 Zach Hervato, #42 Matt Larke, #88 Eric Galbraith, #91 Jordan Mayer
Again, this is a forward group built very much from hungry youngsters, former heroes and hidden gems import wise, with returnees Carl Lauzon (who was crucial to Hull’s play last season) and the firmly-cemented hometown star (and now captain) Matty Davies as the standouts. Dominic Osman returns to Hull after a season away-the all-purpose forward has an eye for goal and has put up 50 goals in two EIHL seasons. Cory Tanaka follows his brother Cale to the Stingrays for his entry into British hockey-the younger Tanaka is supposed to be the “better” of the two, according to his parents, and with his brother being well loved in Hull and now Coventry it’ll be interesting to see what Cory can do. Jordan Mayer and Zach Hervato are two young centers barely out of university-Hervato’s sole pro experience is in the French second division and Mayer has spent 13 games in the CHL. Size and grit are provided by Eric Galbraith and Matt Larke, both of whom are similarly modest in CV-Galbraith is from the Canadian university system and Larke had a “down” year in the CHL last year after several moderately productive seasons previously. Young Brit Sam Towner finishes off the group. This is a forward group that will need some hidden gems to lift Hull from lower-end playoff dogfight territory.
COACH: Omar Pacha (1st year)
Pacha is a novice. Completely so. Thrown into the job with Sylvain Cloutier’s leaving, he’s stuck to his native Quebec for a lot of recruitment (most of the team were either born in Quebec or have had previous connections there) and even outside of those he’s brought back old stars and hungry youngsters rather than gone for a home-run new signing. Retaining Matty Davies and Carl Lauzon is a big achievement, but with losses to Peterborough of the EPL in preseason, this’ll be a long learning year and a very steep learning curve for him and his players, too.
Dominic Osman-Matty Davies-Carl Lauzon
Eric Galbraith-Cory Tanaka-Matt Larke
Zach Hervato-Jordan Mayer-Sam Towner
Yan Turcotte-Kurtis Dulle
CJ Chartrain-Omar Pacha
Tom Ralph-Scott Robson
PLAYER TO WATCH: #26 Matty Davies (C)
The home-town hero and captain has been one of the brightest stars in Hull’s sky for years, and was finally rewarded with a call up to the full GB squad last season. He’s a gifted little playmaker with superb hands and vision, and as a local boy he has the chance to make himself a god in Hull. At 24 he’s still got room to grow, and with point production rising year on year, he’s clearly getting better and better. On a team full of youngsters, role-players and unknowns who look like something of a gamble, Davies is by far the standout star. He is Stingrays’ franchise player, and having recently signed a three year contract that will take him into his prime at age 27, he’ll remain so for a while. Certainly the Stingrays would be crazy to lose him-he is their best player by some distance right now, and one of the best native-born players in GB hockey.
This will be a tough year for the Stingrays-a year where they have to rebuild and start again with a rookie coach, a young team and relying on a bunch of players who, on paper at least, don’t look to be anywhere near the level of the top EIHL teams. But then, they love a scrap in Hull hockey-the fans are a vocal, loyal bunch who have learned not to expect much from their club in recent years, and they, like the players, will be fully aware of the task ahead of them both in the Gardiner Conference and the EIHL as a whole. Qualifying for the playoffs will be seen as a success…anything more than that will be seen as a dream season. It’s going to be a long year for Stingrays, but like their hometown star, they know they’re in this for the long haul and a young, eager team will surely give their best every night in the hope of pulling off something special.