2016-17 Season

After leading the Genting Casino Coventry Blaze to two straight Playoff finals, winning in 2015 and suffering defeat a year later, Chuck Weber departed the club for the AHL’s Rochester Americans. Replacing the American was Danny Stewart, a former player who had previously spent four seasons with the organisation winning the Elite League three times, a Challenge Cup and Knock-out cup.

With a core group of players retained, including Stewart's chosen Captain Jordan Pietrus and the club's top-scorer the previous season Brett Robinson, the Fort McMurray native began putting together the pieces to build a squad with "Blaze DNA".

Signings of the likes of former ECHL Captain and Kelly Cup winner Matt Marquardt, and a top-scorer in the well respected Danish league, Robin Bergman helped build a great deal of excitement as the Stewart era began with an extended pre-season campaign.

High-scoring affairs followed, with the club's first ever German player Björn Bombis particularly catching the eye. As the Elite League season, and an ultimately unsuccessful Challenge Cup campaign got underway though, the goals suddenly dried up.

Away wins in Cardiff and Belfast offered some early signs of hope but similar levels of performance and result were never to materialise. As the offensive woes continued, Darcy Zajac, a veteran of over 250 AHL games became the first casualty. In came over a point-per-game at DEL2 level, Taylor Carnevale, the 25-year-old centreman lasting just 5 games before Coach Stewart dipped into the player market again. Arriving were an American duo with some serious pedigree, cousins Barry Almeida and T.J Syner. Bombis, who after his early season exploits, struggled to make an impact the other player sacrificed.

All of a sudden Coventry's scoring woes looked behind them as the pair who have played the majority of their careers together, not least winning the ECHL's Kelly Cup with Reading Royals in 2012/13, quickly found themselves at the top of the club's scoring charts.

Out of the blue, Great Britain International Ben Davies became a further addition following a short-stint in North America as the team's owners, backed by some of the organisation's highest ever crowds, heavily invested in the squad in an attempt to move up from the lowly position which the club found themselves in.

Despite solving the offensive struggles, following a disastrous Scottish triple-header weekend and a tough Christmas run against their Erhardt Conference rivals, Blaze continued to struggle for consistency. Defensive mistakes and a number of Jekyll and Hyde like performances left Stewart's men sitting outside of the much prized Playoff places.

It wasn't all doom and gloom at the Skydome though, not least in part to the impression which 6'5" Garrett Klotz had made on the Elite League, dropping the gloves no less than 12 times. Liam Stewart too, with his tireless work-ethic and penalty-killing exploits drawing the adulation of the Coventry faithful, proving doubters who pointed to his signing as a PR stunt wrong.

With Syner and Almeida continuing to tear up the scoring charts, Brett Robinson again producing his best form in the second half of the year and Robin Bergman finding the net on a more regular basis, the New Year saw signs of improvement.

A most notable game coming the second week in January as Blaze at one point in a match-up against the Steelers on home ice found themselves without all five recognised import defencemen. In the face of adversity, Matt Marquardt scoring a goal which lifted the Skydome roof off. Sadly, Sheffield were to find a way back into the game and go on to win in overtime but the moment felt a significant coming together for the 16/17 group of players.

With influential defenceman Kevin Noble missing almost all of January and February, in amongst a run of positive results against Gardiner Conference opposition, also, unfortunately came several heavy defeats to title chasing Erhardt clubs, leaving Blaze fighting for the playoff lives with just four games to go.

Home overtime losses to Fife Flyers and Braehead Clan turned out to be a dagger in the Blaze heart, as further defeats to Belfast Giants and Sheffield Steelers left Coventry in a ninth placed position and out of the Elite League playoffs for the first time in their history.

Two further points of interest to end the season review, are that of the Support 25 campaign and the retirement of the club’s longest standing player #17 Russ Cowley.

With help from the world-wide hockey community, in the space of six weeks, the organisation were able to raise over £40,000 to support one of the team’s greatest ever players, Adam Calder in his fight against Cancer.

The end of the current campaign also sees the retirement of Russ, a 15-season veteran for the club, the versatile Great Britain International hanging up his skates with over 800 Elite League games on his CV, second most of any player and leaves as Coventry’s all-time club appearance leader.