Coventry Blaze begin the new season this weekend hoping to improve on what was a disappointing 2016/2017 campaign. The four-time Elite League champions missed out on the playoffs last time out and will be hoping that a busy summer of new signings will see an upturn in fortunes.
Head Coach Danny Stewart seems to have struck a good balance between youth an experience and has also brought in players who know what it takes to win at various different levels. Here we take a look at the roster the Blaze faithful hope will return the club to the top of British hockey.
4 Oliver Stone – Defenceman
Nineteen year old British defenceman Stone joins the Blaze from Swindon Wildcats, formerly of the EPIHL. In 38 games for Swindon last season, he recorded one assist. He also featured in six playoff games recording one assist. Stone has represented Great Britain at Under-18 and Under-20 levels.
5 Jordan Stokes – Defenceman
Warwick-born defenceman Stokes, 18, has been associated with Blaze since 2011, icing for their junior teams at Under-16, Under-18 and NIHL-2 levels. He has featured in five Elite League games over the past two seasons and has also appeared in the EPIHL, icing for both Manchester Phoenix and Hull Stingrays. Stokes has represented Great Britain at Under-18 level.
7 Dax Lauwers – Defenceman
Lauwers, a shut-down defenceman, joined the Blaze from Alaska Aces of the ECHL. In 62 games last season, the Alaska native had two goals, ten assists and 142 penalty minutes. Lauwers has previously featured in the NCAA for Northeastern University and the Army (US Military Academy).
8 Gaelan Patterson – Defenceman
Patterson will be playing his third season in Europe this year, having previously played for Chamonix-Morzine in France and Sparta Sarpsborg in Norway. The 6ft 1in defenceman was a 7th round draft pick of the Calgary Flames in 2009 (201st overall) and featured in three seasons for the Flames’ AHL affiliate Abbotsford Heat. In 2010, the Flames signed him to a three-year entry level contract, though he never iced for the team.
9 Ben Lake – Forward
Like Dax Lauwers, Ben Lake joined Coventry from the Alaska Aces. The Canadian forward had a total of 46 points (16G, 30A) in 136 games over two seasons for the ECHL club. Lake has also represented Sacred Heart University in the NCAA where he had 61 points (25G, 36A) in 138 games.
13 Garrett Ladd – Forward
Ladd is another player to make the move to the Elite League from the ECHL. Last season, he put up solid numbers playing for the Tulsa Oilers. The Michigan-born Forward had 34 points (17G, 17A) in 58 games. Previously, Ladd has featured in the NCAA for both Bemidji State University and University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point.
16 Jordan Pietrus – Forward
The Alberta native will be entering his third season with Blaze and will again captain the team. In his career with Coventry, the 31-year old has 75 points (37G, 38A) in 100 Elite League games. Prior to his stint in the UK, Pietrus played in Poland for KH Sanok and had a successful spell in the ECHL with Elmira Jackals where he wore the “A” on his jersey.
Pietrus is another former NCAA player, having featured for Brown University where he captained the team for one season. He has also won the USHL’s Clark Cup whilst playing for Cedar Rapids Roughriders in 2005.
18 Gustav Ahnelov – Defenceman
Right-shooting defenceman Ahnelov will be playing his first season outside his native Sweden this year. Having come through the Djurgardens IF system, the 21-year old has featured for numerous teams across the Swedish hockey structure. He has played in 15 games at Sweden’s highest level, the SHL.
Ahnelov comes from a family of hockey players. His cousin, Jonas, has represented Sweden at the World Championships and is currently playing in the KHL.
19 Ryan Dingle – Forward
Dingle joined Coventry over the summer having spent two successful seasons with Fyfe Flyers. The Steamboat Springs, Colorado native captained the Flyers during his second season and tallied over a point a game amassing 54 points (31G, 23A) in 41 games.
Before his move to the UK, Dingle spent time in Italy with Cortina where he scored more than a point per game in two of his four seasons. Whilst playing in North America, the 33-year old Center spent time in the AHL and ECHL as well as playing in the NCAA. Dingle was part of the University of Denver team that won the NCAA Championship in 2004-2005.
23 Brett Robinson – Forward
Robinson will be taking up a player-coach role with the Blaze this year, which will be his third with the team. In his previous two seasons, Robinson has contributed 104 points (33G, 71A) in 103 games.
Prior to joining the Blaze, the 32-year old had a successful career in the ECHL for Idaho Steelheads, Greenville Road Warriors and Cincinnati Cyclones. He won the Kelly Cup with the Cyclones in 2009-2010.
29 Luke Ferrara – Forward
British forward Ferrara joined Blaze from the Sheffield Steelers where he was part of a Championship and Playoff winning team. The 24-year old has also played for his hometown Peterborough Phantoms and the Cardiff Devils.
Ferrara has represented his country at Under-18 and Under-20 levels.
30 Renny Marr – Goaltender
Nineteen-year old Marr will split his time between the Blaze and Swindon Wildcats of the NIHL. The Scottish goalie has previously played for the Fyfe Flyers and has represented Great Britain and Under-18 and Under-20 levels.
37 Brython Preece – Goaltender
Welshman Preece joins the Blaze having spent last year with the Utah Outliers of the WSHL. Prior to this he spent two years as part of the Ontario Hockey Academy. This will be Preece’s first season at the top level in the UK having spent his junior career with the Cardiff Devils.
41 Adam Courchaine – Forward
Experienced forward Courchaine is another to have joined the Blaze over the summer. The 33-year old was a 7th round draft pick (217th overall) of the Minnesota Wild in 2003. Although he never played in the NHL, Courchaine has built a career which has taken in numerous leagues across North America and Europe. In 2014, Courchaine led the DEL in both assists (45) and points (75).
45 Vojtech Kloz – Defenceman
Kloz is another experienced skater who has played in a number of countries. As well as one season in the OHL, the 6ft 3in defenceman has played in his native Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Austria, Poland and France. Kloz was part of the KH Sanok team crowned Polish champions in 2013-2014.
47 Danick Paquette – Forward
Danick Paquette has made a name for himself as an agitator and enforcer. The Montreal native is no stranger to the penalty box, amassing 185 penalty minutes last season with the Tulsa Oilers including 15 fighting majors. The 27-year old was a third round draft pick (64th overall) of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2008 but has spent virtually all of his career playing in the ECHL. Paquette was the most penalised player in the ECHL in 2013-2014 with 277 penalty minutes, however he illustrated that he is more than a one dimensional player by also scoring 49 points (23G, 26A) in 67 games.
52 Kevin Nastiuk – Goaltender
Nastiuk will be the starting goalie for the Blaze this year and joins the club after a successful stint in Germany. Last season, he had the best goals against average (1.91) and save percentage (.938) in the DEL2. He is also a two time DEL champion, having won both titles with Eisbaren Berlin.
The 32-year old was a fourth round pick (126th overall) of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2003 and also won a WHL title whilst playing for Medicine Hat Tigers in 2003-2004.
58 Kevin Noble – Defenceman
Canadian defenceman Noble will be playing his third season for Coventry having joined the club in 2015. The 30-year old had two goals and six assists last season. Before his move to the UK, Noble spent time playing in the ECHL. CHL and NCAA.
58 David Clements – Defenceman
Clements will be entering his third season with his hometown club having appeared in 91 EIHL games over the past two years. The 22-year old spent some of his junior career playing in North America and has represented Great Britain at Under-18 and Under-20 level.
59 Ross Venus – Forward
Venus has been with the Blaze since 2010 and has played close to 350 EIHL games – a considerable feat given that he is still only 23. The Solihull-born forward has represented Coventry at numerous levels and has also iced for Team GB. Venus has had the honour of captaining his country at Under-20 level.
88 Marc-Olivier Vallerand – Forward
Canadian Forward Vallerand joined the Blaze during the summer and has had a wide ranging career across Europe and North America. The Elite League will be the tenth different league that he has competed in and at 28 there is still potential to add to that in the future. Last season, Vallerand played in the Austrian EBEL where he had 24 points (13G, 11A) in 52 games.
The Blaze’s first home game of the season will be on Sunday 10th September when they face off against Manchester Storm at 5:15pm UK time.
We will be covering the game live on Twitter via @Puck_Planet.