FIFE Flyers have secured the services of three local players for the new season - and told them they’ll have to up their game.
Stephen Gunn, Chris Wands and Jamie Wilson are the first home-based signings of the summer, and Todd Dutiaume, player/coach, has told them exactly what he expects and that they will take on bigger roles in the 2012-13 Elite League campaign.
All three made the step-up to top flight ice hockey last season and won praise for their performances as Flyers took time to find their feet at a much higher level after six years playing grassroots hockey.
For defenceman Wands it was a big change, but one he settled into and developed as a player - he ended the season as Flyers’ British player of the year.
The 24-year old is loking forward to the September face-off.
He said: “I was very happy here last season and I’m delighted to be back. I’m really looking forward to the new season.
“The start of last season was a bit of a shock for everyone, but we managed to adjust s it went on - and we were certainly a lot better towards the end of the campaign.
“I’m confident we’ll continue to progress as a team and we’ll definitely do a lot better than last season.
“It’s great that Stephen and Jamie are returning too as it’s good to have friends around you and gives us a bit of continuity. ‘‘
Forward Gunn was the club’s highest scoring Brit with stats of 12+3, while Wilson came more into the picture after relinquishing the captaincy to assistant coach Danny Stewart.
Having handed them a chance to play top-flight ice hockey, Dutiaume expects them to show more progress when the ice goes down.
He said: “This year is different – we can’t hold on to dead weight for sentimental reasons and we can’t wait for a guy to come good for four months.
“I’ve been told that Flyers are expected to compete night in and night out and win hockey games, so now it is time to see who can up their game.
‘‘I have every confidence that if these guys commit to it they can do a job for us.
‘‘Chris had a difficult start to last season and was really thrown into the deep end, but he persevered and we saw glimpses of what we expect on a consistent basis by the end of the year.
“I think that fitness, foot speed and playing with more self confidence will be a huge factor in him earning a full time spot in our line up.
“Steven has proved that he can put the puck in the net at all levels, but for us to be successful we need to have guys confident in both ends of the ice.
“With the right guys there is no reason why Gunny can’t better his totals from last season.
In order for the coaching staff to have the confidence to use Gunny on a regular shift he’ll have to come out fighting for his spot – that means playing physical for 60, taking guys on wide and improving his defensive play.
“Jamie didn’t have a great year - even he will admit that - but after talking to him I believe he will come out right from the star.’’
The British trio join coaches Dutiaume and Stewart, and defencemen Jeff Caister (27) and Derek Keller (25) in the Flyers’ squad for the new season, which is due to begin on Saturday, September 8, with a Challenge Cup derby against Edinburgh Capitals at Fife Ice Arena.
The services of Caister and Keller – who played together at St Lawrence University in New York – were secured earlier this summer after the club received glowing recommendations from former coach Mark Morrison.
Dutiaume said: “We want to create a harmonious dressing room and bringing over a couple of buddies can only help that.
“Although they’ll have to adjust to the UK style, they’ll be able to go through that process together and I’m sure they will complement each other well on the ice.”