EIHL: Rumours and re-shuffles launch summer recess

Goalie for hire: Ervins Mustukovs (Pic: Dean Woolley)
Goalie for hire: Ervins Mustukovs (Pic: Dean Woolley)

The kit may still be drying out after the play-off finals weekend, but already the wheels are turning towards the 2018-19 ice hockey season.

In the days since Cardiff Devils swept to a league and play-off double with victory over Sheffield Steelers, one team has announced a new coach, one has staged a clear out on a colossal scale, and the rumour mill has cranked up.

Ryan Dingle, Fife Flyers (Pic: Steve Gunn)

Ryan Dingle, Fife Flyers (Pic: Steve Gunn)

And the fourth-month summer break hasn’t even started ...

Braehead Clan were first off the mark to unveil Peter Russell as their new head coach.

His early appointment was in stark contrast to the delays getting John Tripp behind the bench for a season which was all too underwhelming for the club and fans.

Immediate response on social media – which was always going to be led by the whingers – was surprisingly critical as fans pointed to his lack of EIHL coaching experience, perhaps overlooking several years at the helm of MK Lightning, his success south of the border and the GB team he steered to world championship gold.

Russell faces a busy summer re-building a new-look Clan side which has already lost Tyler Scofield who has retired.

They have been linked with a return of the warrior, Zack Fiztgerald, one of a host of players culled by Sheffield Steelers, another side that failed to deliver in 2017-18.

Proving there is absolutely no room for sentiment in sport, coach Paul Thomson scythed through his roster, announcing nine departures within 48 hours of the season ending.

The departures included Jonas Westerling, Andreas Valdix, Joonas Ronnberg, Colton Fretter, Tim Wallace, Matt Marquardt, Andreas Jamtin, Fitzgerald and Ervins Mustukovs.

The last name on that list caught many fans by surprise, and the netminder was far from happy too as he announced he was for hire.

Moose pointed to his stats – every goalie’s bible – including best goals against average, two times best saves percentage, two times most wins, a League record for shutouts, and noted:: “I did what I was paid for. But it seems that it was not good enough for them.”

All of the above was trumped, however, by the fact Steelers won zero silverware, hence the coach’s immediate clear-out.

A few other players have already left the stage through retirement, including former Fife Flyer, Ryan Dingle, who called time on his career after a spell with Coventry Blaze.

As for the rumour mill, it started to whirl at the play-off finals.

After his release, Fitzy is going everywhere from back home to Braehead, south to Guildford, and along the road to Manchester where he would team-up with ex-Clan coach Ryan Finnerty ... just as Mike Hammond may be returning up the M6 to Renfrew, and the old warrior himself, Jay Rosehill, may be hanging ‘em up after a suspension-laden slog of season.

The same chit-chat has Jonas Westerling bound for Fife, while key Flyers’ imports Chase Schaber and Andy Iles may be about to catch a ferry across the Irish Sea and become Belfast Giants – one of THE hot chats from the weekend – or possibly Sheffield in the case of the goalie where he may also be joined by forward Dannick Gauthier.

And just as Fife fans weighed up the merits of each rumour, one from left-field – the return of former goalie, Shane Owen to MK Lightning?

The chips will start to fall in the coming weeks, along with a host of fresh rumours which will probably contradict all the ones that flew like boomerangs around the Motorpoint Arena.

It’s the nuggets of info, both true and wide of the mark, that keep ice hockey fans going over summer ...