One of the Elite League’s fastest skaters will again be wearing the Fife Flyers jersey next season.
Matt Reber is returning to the Kirkcaldy club for a second successive season after scoring 70 points in his debut campaign.
Head coach Todd Dutiaume is delighted to have the 25-year-old American flying machine back in the line-up.
“The first time I saw Matt skate I knew he was one of the fastest guys we’ve ever had on this team,” he said.
“That speed is really important on the big ice, but two of his biggest games for us last year were down in Cardiff in the smallest rink in the league.
“His exceptional foot speed blew those games wide open. With his speed alone he can change a game at any point.”
Reber took time to adjust to the UK game last season, scoring the majority of his 19 goals and 51 assists in the second half of the campaign.
A key change, Dutiaume recalls, was moving him from his more natural centreman position to the wing.
“It relieved some of the pressure on him, and let him sit a little higher to capitalise on his exceptional speed,” Dutiaume said.
“Almost everybody underperformed at the start of last season - a lot of guys were new to the UK game so there were inconsistent performances.
“Matt considered himself more of a set-up man and that he had a role to play.
“He had to learn to become an all-round player, someone we rely on every night to do a little bit of everything, like being tough defensively, scoring on a consistent basis and logging a lot of minutes.
“Not everyone is cut out for that but Matt learned very quickly and down the stretch he scored some big goals for us.
“By the end of season he was shooting pucks all over the place and they were starting to go in on a more regular basis. He learned that it’s not always a bad thing to be a little selfish when you get into shooting areas.
“I’m confident that if we put him with the right centreman, we’ll see increased productivity from Matt this year.”
Flyers are currently in advanced talks with a ‘high-scoring centreman’ .
“We’re basically there,” Dutiaume said. “If things pan out, we’re going to be looking really good.
“Teams across the league are making some impressive signings and improving.
“We’ve signed back the core of guys we wanted now it’s time to put in place small improvements that will make us a very difficult team to beat, and one that gets points every week.”
The new EIHL fixture lists were released this week and Dutiaume believes Flyers have been handed a tough start.
“Every year you have small niggles with the fixtures,” he said. “We’ve got a few three games in three nights, midweek games, and not as many Saturday home games as I’d like.
“But at the end of the day you don’t complain about the schedule when you’re winning. It never matters until you go on a bad run - then you blame the schedule.
“We’ll get off to a challenging start playing Coventry and Sheffield home and away but we’re a team coming in virtually intact from last season, with only a few tweaks.
“The theory goes we should hit the ground running, and we look forward to putting that theory to the test against Coventry on September 6.”