Fife Flyers have crossed the Forth to snap up new centreman, Mike Cazzola.
The club’s latest new signing was unveiled today (Thursday), and it is expected to be followed by several more as as the clock starts to countdown to the new ice hockey season.
Cazzola endured a tough baptism in UK ice hockey as Caps all but collapsed last season, but his performances c aught the eye of Fife’s coaching team, who kept him on their radar.
A native of Guelph, Ontario, the 27-year old was highly rated by Caps’ fans, and he is looking to make a fresh start across the Forth when the puck drops later this month.
He played with Erie Otters in the OHL from 2007-11 and then iced alongside former Fife import, Liam Heelis, at Acadia University between 2012-16 – the duo actually topped the team’s scoring charts in 2013-14.
Cazzola was also top scorer with Fort Wayne Komets in the ECHL before coming to the UK last season.
Caps’ demise – the club lost its ice time contract at Murrayfield and, subsequently, its place in ther EIHL – allowed Flyers to make a move.
Cazzola said “I hope that I can help take the team to the next level and we can continue with the momentum of last season’s success.
“Right now, I’m just focused on getting in shape and looking forward to meeting the team and having a fresh start with a winning mentality.”
Jeff Hutchins, assistant coach, believes this is another signing which strengths the roster for the 2018-19 campaign.
“We are looking really strong up the middle – Mike is an upgrade on last season, and with Chase Schaber and Paul Crawder, that is great depth.’’
Hutchins described Cazzola as a “hard working guy’’ and added: “You don’t become rookie of the year unless you are a good player – he is ambitious and smart too.
“He is good on the powerplay and penalty kill – a good all rounder.’’
The assistant coach believes Cazzola will also help to raise the bar when it comes to taking care of business in defence.
He expalined: “When we talk about improving our defence, it wasn’t about individuals – it’s how you play as a five-man unit.
“Some guys last season struggled with the defensive side of the game. Mike will come in and do a really good job here.’’
His words were echoed by Todd Dutiaume, head coach.
“Mike will complement our returning forwards well,’’ he said. “He’s always dangerous with the puck on his stick and we believe he will become a fan favourite here.”
“We followed him closely last season and feel he has even more to offer in a Flyers jersey.
“He’ll play a critical role in this squad on and off the ice and I’m sure our supporters will join me in welcoming Caz to Kirkcaldy.”
The centreman will join his new team-mates as they gather ahead of the puck dropping later this month – the plan is to have everyone in and settled ahead of the opening pre-season 4Nations Competition which gets underway on the 23nd with teams from Denmark, Germany and Canada all slated to play in Kirkcaldy as part of an event co-organised with Manchester Storm.
A schedule is already in place to ensure everyone is ready to lace up for the start of the 2018-19 campaign.
Hutchins admits it’s going to be a busy few weeks.
“It’s all coming rather fast now,’’ he said. “Our aim this summer was to improve the team - keeping the parts we wanted to keep, and bringing in upgrades.
“We didn’t get everyone we wanted, but I think we have done a good job as an organisation by returning with a good platform from last season.
“We have put ourselves in a good position to build on what we achieved last season.’’
Flyers have more players still to be announced then most of their EIHL rivals, but the coaching staff are comfortable with where they are at – and who they have under wraps.
“It may look like we are miles away, but we aren’t,’’ added Hutchins.