by Lindsay Cuthbertson
THE SEASON THAT WAS
There was a degree of apprehension about the 2018/19 season and after what happened under John Tripp the season before, the thought of Pete Russell coming in wasn’t one that really excited me.
I was very wrong and it turned into the best season in a few years, with a high league finish, getting to the last four of the Challenge Cup and the return of the Gardiner Conference trophy to a place that’s called home.
The only disappointment you would say was once again, missing out on the play-off finals after holding a first leg lead to Guildford Flames in the quarter final, but over the course of the season, one that gave you plenty of optimism.
The signings Pete made got people excited, with Scott Pitt and Matt Beca coming back after a season in Manchester. Zack Fitzgerald came back too while we added Brendan Connolly, Matt Stanisz, Travis Ehrhardt.
Of course, add those guys to established Brit core of Matt Haywood, Craig Peacock and Zach Sullivan, we had a team, on paper, that was as good as anything we’ve seen in the past. Apart from the Tripp year.
The only change to the team was Josh Gratton replaced by Guillaume Doucet, who brought in plenty of points in the second half of the season and was a worthy addition to the team.
Beating Cardiff in overtime to knock them out of the Challenge Cup was a real highlight and the fact it was Haywood who scored it made it all the better.
For once, it was really good to be a Clan fan.
For the first time in a few years, we’ve actually kept a large part of the team from the season before and although Pete Russell committed to a second season, the lure of the DEL2 and an opportunity with Freiburg seemed too good to turn down.
Let’s face it, it’s not the first time we’ve seen that happen with a coach so when the organisation turned to Fitzy to take over, it was always going to be a popular move.
Russell had already signed guys like Patrick Killeen, Craig Moore and Peacock, but had let go of Sullivan, which brought a mixed reaction to the fans.
With Fitzy going on the bench, we brought in a newer version in Linden Springer while the coach used his magic to talk one time Sheffield hero Mathieu Roy out of retirement and put on the purple.
Chad Rau is one that’s really got the Purple Army excited going by his previous experience and has the potential to be one of the standouts in the league this year.
Keeping a large part of the team was important so seeing Pitt, Beca, Ehrhardt, Stanisz and my favourite, Scott Tanski come back gives us something to build from and as the league gets more competitive, having these guys back is very important.
I’m looking forward to seeing what the ‘other’ Heywood’, Jordan Heywood, has to bring to the team and could be another wee gem that Fitzy has found.
The make up of the team is good and hearing the coach speak about the players is encouraging for us fans dying to see us lift one of the major trophies.
Glasgow Clan could be a surprise package this year and while the idea of them overtaking Cardiff Devils and Belfast Giants is a bit off, there’s nothing to stop them finishing third at least this year.
It’s easy to get carried away, but with Sheffield and Nottingham bringing in brand new teams, it’s hard to know just how they’ll fare over the course of the season and I think the experience can play a big part.
I’m sure other teams like Guildford and Coventry would have something to say about that as well, but it goes to show that we’re in for a really tight league this season.
Beating Fife Flyers is always an expectation for Clan, no matter who’s playing or who the coach is and that will be the case again.
Going far in the Challenge Cup would be nice too and after reaching the semi-finals last year, if we were to do that again, it would be really good, but I’d be happy just getting out of the group and going from there.
But what I really want is to go to the play-offs and see the Clan there. I didn’t get to see it a few years ago and the weekend would really be amazing with Fitzy’s team there so that would be amazing.
Fingers crossed for a great season in Glasgow.
MY FIRST LINE
If I was Zack Fitzgerald, I’d have Jordan Heywood alongside Linden Springer. Heywood picks up plenty of points and going by his performances in pre-season, can be an asset venturing into the offensive positions.
Springer is the tough guy and while he looks good on the puck, he’s the guy who will stick up for his team-mates when things get heated.
Choosing a top line in offence was kind of like choosing your favourite family member. Scott Pitt has to be in there for the amount of goals he’ll bring the to team.
He works really well with Matt Beca so it would be silly not to have him in there and one of the highlights from last season was how well they did against their opponents.
So, with the wings covered, that leaves a centreman so I’m going to go with Chad Rau, who I think will be a big player in the league. With Pitt and Beca doing their thing on either side, Rau will be there to torment and torture the opposing defenceman.