Opponent preview: 2017/18 Braehead Clan
After a trip to Manchester on Saturday, the Genting Casino Coventry Blaze face-off against Glasgow's Braehead Clan at the Skydome Arena on Sunday (5.15pm). The Perennial Gardiner Conference powerhouses had a big shake-up in the summer, Blaze TV's Ed Kimberley (@edkimberley) takes a look:
The changes for Braehead started at the top and trickled down throughout the roster. The departure of Coach Ryan Finnerty who had led them to 3x straight Gardiner Conference banners was announced early in the off-season and his replacement John Tripp was confirmed shortly after. Tripp will be making his first trip (pun intended) to the EIHL. He had a solid professional playing career which included stints in the NHL with the Rangers and LA Kings. He is a rookie when it comes to coaching though, taking on his first job midway through last season with Eispiraten of Crimmitschau. The DEL2 side struggled over the full season, finishing dead-last in the league, but Tripp managed to turn things around in the post-season saving the team from relegation to the 3rd tier of German hockey.
Tripp has shown faith in his netminder from Germany last season by bringing Canadian shot-stopper Ryan Nie in to be the number one between the pipes in Braehead. As aforementioned, it was not a good season for Nie’s Ice Pirates who finished last in the regular season and his stats last year likely reflect that, showing a 3.80 goals-against-average (GAA) and a .892 save-percentage (SVS%). In comparison, Kevin Nastiuk of Coventry kept a 1.99 GAA and a league-leading .938 SVS%, whilst former Blaze number one, Brett Jaeger managed a 2.89 GAA and .895 SVS% for Frankfurt who finished 2nd in the table and went on to win the Playoff title.
Taking the coaches word for it, he argues, despite the numbers, Nie was one of the top goalies in the DEL2, not enjoying the success he deserved. On his signing, Tripp said, "I like his character and I’m glad to have him on board. He’s a good family man and he’s played a lot of games and can take 50 shots a game. If you ask anyone about him in that league, they would say he kept the team in it a lot in recent years and I expect him to take on a change of mind set and a winning one."
Steeling The Show:
Although at time of writing Clan are still short a couple of imports, their D-line appears intact. One signing from Tripp that could prove a particularly clever bit of business is bringing in ex-Sheffield defenceman, Christoffer Bjorklund. The Swede iced in 40 regular season games with the Steelers last year before switching to Mora helping them achieve promotion to the SHL. The smart two-way blue-liner may go some way to alleviate the loss of the departing Scott Aarsen who has gone the other way, joining Paul Thompson's Steelers. Bjorklund only registered 1 assist in 7 regular season games with Mora last year after the switch but added 4 assists in 9 playoff games on the road to promotion showing his attacking instincts.
Not a Steeler, but made of stern stuff is tough no-nonsense defenceman Craig Cescon who joins the Clan from conference rivals Dundee Stars. Cescon is no stranger to Blaze fans, as the popular D-man lifted the playoff trophy under then coach Chuck Weber in 2014/15. Cescon is thus far the biggest defenceman on the Clan roster and will provide valuable minutes on the PK and some protection for Tripp's men. This technically will be Cescon’s second stint with the Clan having played 20 games in purple in the 2012/13 campaign.
One For the Brooks:
Brendan Brooks who holds dual nationality showed exactly what type of player he was during the five World Championship games he played for Team GB during the summer. He is a speedy two-way forward with a great eye for the net and possesses an infectious work ethic. He will take an assistant coaching role this season alongside Tripp which will be valuable in Clan-town, as will the point-per-game average he is likely to bring.
Tripp has signed two Canadian's with the Christian name Tyler who will be valuable to the Clan's quest to retain their conference title and other forms of silverware.
Tyler Scofield, 33-years-old, is a diminutive winger who is no stranger to putting up points wherever he goes. The Bemidji State graduate won 2x CHA Championships with the Beavers scoring 111 points in 129 games whilst at the D1 school. Having turned pro, Scofield has spent the majority of his career in European leagues, predominantly Austria where he has iced for Innsbruck, Graz and Klagenfurter, the latter of which he spent 4 seasons with lifting the title in 2012/13. Tripp got a close look at the Prince George BC native last season as both teams were struggling at the bottom of the DEL2 with Scofield's Rosenheim eventually being relegated. Despite this the older Tyler (Scofield) scored 25 goals, 30 assists in 47 regular season games and 12 points in 12 relegation games.
Tyler Shattock, 27-years-old, stands at 6’3", 200lb and is in his first season in Europe. He was Captain of the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL before being traded to the eventual champions Calgary Hitmen. He was then 'C' of the Kalmazoo Wings in the ECHL for a season and a half before being traded to Alaska where he laced up alongside Blaze’s Dax Lauwers and Ben Lake. Shattock had a great junior career and was drafted 4th round of the 2009 NHL draft to St Louis Blues. He has 258 regular season AHL games under his belt with 62 points split between Peoria, Chicago (Wolves) and Worcester. His size combined with the 6'4" frame of Jacob Doty who also spent time in the Blues organisation should give the Clan a formidable edge.
The pick of the Clan's litter has to be ex-NHLer Ryan Potulny. The 33-year-old has laced up 126 times in ‘The Show’ for Ottawa, Chicago, Philadelphia and Edmonton scoring 22 goals with 27 assists. The slick centreman who is an alumni from the prestigious University of Minnesota also has a Calder Cup under his belt with Binghampton in a campaign where he led the AHL post-season in goals and points. He was an All-Star in the ‘A’ in 2008/09 with Springfield, in what was a 38 goal career year for the American. In total during his 433 regular season AHL games, Potulny had an impressive 152 goals, 161 assists and in the post-season posted 19 goals, 21 assists in 52 games. This will be the 3rd year in Europe for Potulny who signed from EHC Linz in the EBEL.
Tickets vs. Blaze vs. Clan - Sunday (5.15pm)
No queing, guaranteed seat - show ticket on your mobile device – no need to print!
or call/visit the Skydome Arena box office in person - 02476 630693.
The box office is open from 9am every day and you can also pay on the door when you arrive, however it is recommended that you book online to save queing.
Braehead fans, please book tickets in block 6.