TWO university mates from Canada will form the backbone of Fife Flyers’ defence next season.
Friends Jeff Caister (27) and Derek Keller (25) played together at St.Lawrence Uni in New York, and were also team mates at South Carolina Stingrays in the East Coast Hockey League.
Both were snapped up by Fife after the club received glowing references from former coach Mark Morrison, who signed Caister for the Victoria Salmon Kings two years ago.
Flyers player-coach Todd Dutiaume believes the acquisition of two close friends will have its advantages.
“At Fife we want to create a harmonious dressing room and bringing over a couple of buddies can only help that,” he said.
“It means they won’t come over here and need baby-sat. They can go out and explore together - but more importantly they can go out on the ice and do the business.
“They are comfortable with each others game, and although they will have to adjust to the UK style, they’ll be able to go through that process together.
“They are both excited to take on this defensive role in Scotland together, and I’m sure they will complement each other well on the ice.”
Caister has spent the past two seasons in the ECHL, most recently with Greenville Road Warriors where last season he racked up 69 games, scoring three goals and 23 assists.
“Jeff came up on our radar before we even contacted Mo, but once we asked Mo we got good references,” Dutiaume said.
“We rely heavily on Mo’s opinions, especially for East Coast players because he’s seen most them play.
“He had nothing but good things to say about Jeff, and that made him even more of a desirable target, and we’re delighted to get him.
“We’re really doing our homework this year, so we’re talking to three or four people about every guy.
“When you hear the same thing from them all, you know you’re onto a player that you want in your squad.
“A signing of Jeff’s calibre shows that we are serious about being a competitive team this year.”
Keller has also featured in the ECHL for the past two seasons with South Carolina, where his record stands at 93 appearances, seven goals and 27 assists.
“We gather that Keller is a similar player to Tom Maxwell in that he has good hands and we’re hoping he can be the quarter-back for our poweplay”, Dutiaume added.
“Signing a player can often drag on, but getting Derek to sign was a painless process.
“It happened really fast, probably because his friend was already here.
“That’s two import D signed up, and we’d probably be looking for one more.
“We’re still in talks with a couple of forwards, and we’ll be looking to get a strong pack of them to get us goals.
“We’re also in the market for a netminder - and plenty have been in touch.”