Signings Update: Plenty of movement in busy few days

(PHOTO: Helen Brabon)

The Elite League teams have continued to go about building their teams for the new season, but biggest statement of the last few days came from Wales.

Cardiff Devils announced the news their netminder Ben Bowns, who had wowed the planet with his performances in the World Championships for GB, was staying for another season to the delight of the club’s fans.

Bowns has been at the club for five years, with winners medals in two league championships, two play-offs and two Challenge Cups and was hotly tipped to move abroad after his impressive displays in Kosice last month.

But his decision to stay was huge and head coach Andrew Lord highlighted just how key a figure Bowns is.

“Ben is so valuable to this team,” Lord told the Devils website. “What he has achieved here is nothing short of extraordinary and then add to that what he’s done with Team GB. He is our last line of defence and he gives the guys in front of him a lot of confidence.

“He played a lot of hockey last season and then added even more games with Team GB at the World Championships where again he played great.  He wants to play every night; he is a competitor and we believe he is the guy that can lead us to more championships.

“Importantly, Bownsy isn’t just a great goalie, he is also a great guy who is very popular amongst his teammates and famous for his jokes and pranks in the locker-room.

“He is loved by the fan base and just such a crucial part of our success here in Cardiff and I couldn’t be happier that he’s back for another season.”

Andrew Lord is also staying put at Cardiff Devils (PHOTO: Scott Wiggins)

Lord was celebrating his own news after agreeing to stay in Cardiff on a five-year deal, with opportunities every year to explore prospects in other leagues and a chance to claim an ownership stake if he stays for two years.

And Devils managing director Todd Kelman told the website he would have locked him on a longer deal if he could have.

He said: “Andrew Lord has been head coach here in Cardiff since our ownership group took over in the summer of 2014 and we have seen a 5-year period of success on and off the ice.

“If I could have him working with me for the next 20 years, I would happily do that. He brings passion, detail and motivation every day to the rink and that hasn’t changed since the day he took the job.

“We wanted to lock him in long term but also be fair and give an ambitious young coach the window to advance if the right opportunity comes up.”

Adding to their ranks are Manchester Storm, who have succeeded in bringing back Mathieu Gagnon to the Elite League after a spell in the Alps Hockey League with HDD Jesenice.

The 26-year-old is a former Nottingham Panther and played in the Champions Hockey League two seasons ago when they reached the last 16.

And Storm head coach Ryan Finnerty says he brings more than toughness to his roster as he rebuilds his team following a raft of departures.

Mathieu Gagnon is back in the Elite League with Manchester Storm (PHOTO: Panthers Images)

Finnerty told the Storm website: “Gagz is a player we felt we needed in Manchester. Alongside the toughness side, he brings an impressive amount of experience to our blue line.

“I want my players to play heavy and having guys like this on the roster gives us the ability to do that.

“I am looking forward to welcoming a player that has been a fan favourite wherever he’s played, and I’m sure this season will be no different for him.”

As one former Panther opted for a move to another team, three of their own have committed themselves to Tim Wallace’s team as Joe Hazeldine, Robert Lachowicz and Jordan Kelsall all signed up.

Kelsall in particular returns after a season on loan with Dundee Stars where he got plenty of ice time under Omar Pacha, although the club were unable to reach the play-offs.

Staying with the Stars, forward Duncan Speirs has signed up in Tayside for the season, becoming Pacha’s ninth capture of the summer so far.

The 21-year-old will become the fourth player to ice for at least three Scottish teams in the Elite League after Bobby Chaumont, Bari McKenzie and Travis Fullerton after spells with former Braehead Clan and Edinburgh Capitals in the past.

Duncan Speirs has signed for Dundee Stars (PHOTO: Ian Coyle)

He arrives after a campaign with Sheffield Steeldogs in the NIHL, where he won the North 1 league title and play-off championships.

And the Irvine-born player was attracted by the prospect of getting ice time in the Elite League as he weighed up his decision.

He told the Dundee Stars website: “After a few chats with Omar, I know he is going to try and make me a better player and give me as much ice time as he can.

“The Elite League has a much faster pace and reactions have to be quicker, so from my previous seasons with Edinburgh and Braehead, I will know what to expect from the league going into it.

“I noticed Dundee likes to give more chances to young Brits and help them progress, so I just want put a hard shift every time I am out on the ice and make sure we have a successful season.”

Sheffield Steelers confirmed Tanner Eberle would be returning to the club for a second season, but there were departures as Kyle Baun has traded Belfast Giants for Vienna Capitals in Austria.

Coventry Blaze also bid farewell to netminder Matt Hackett, who has taken up an offer to play in Norway while captain Kevin Morris has decided to retire from the sport.

In a Twitter message, he said: “It’s not easy making the decision, but I’ve always said I wanted to end my playing days on my own terms.

“As I will be completing my Masters in Business Administration this summer, I am doing so with a healthy brain, body and spirit.”

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