Opponent Preview: 2017/18 Manchester Storm
Since their introduction to the Elite League two years ago, the Genting Casino Coventry Blaze have developed quite the rivalry with Manchester Storm.
Now in a Conference together, the two will see plenty of each other over the 2017/18 season, starting with a pre-season encounter this evening at the Skydome Arena (7.30pm face-off).
This summer has seen quite the upheaval at both clubs, significantly with Manchester Storm gaining a new ownership group.
Taking the reins and replacing Omar Pacha as Head Coach is former Braehead Clan and Sheffield Steelers’ boss Ryan Finnerty.
And with that recently, General Manager Neil Russell, who has worked so hard to build the organisation back up from its foundations, has accepted a job offer from Manchester City Football Club, leaving behind the hockey team.
On the ice, there has also been much change. Blaze TV’s Ed Kimberley takes a look:
Better the Clansman you know
The summer has been awash with rumours of Clan players flocking south to join their former coach in Manchester, and indeed Finnerty has lifted what could be a whole line from his former employers.
Matt Beca, the Elite League’s top scorer last season (27 goals plus 48 assists in 52 regular season games) is a known winner having lifted the Kelly Cup, Italian Cup and the Slovakian Extraliga prior to joining the Clan. Mike Hammond, who was a late signing for Finnerty in Braehead also impressed in his debut EIHL season scoring 25 goals and 21 assists in 43 games before injury ended his season. The pairs’ ready-made chemistry is going to be important early on for the Storm.
Jay Rosehill, recently named Captain of the Storm, rounds off the trio to follow Finnerty. The big gritty winger was a much heralded signing for the Clan last summer and also this time around for the Storm. Rosehill may only have scored 4 goals with 18 assists last term but he is tough, with a great CV having played 117 NHL and 448 AHL games. He proved that he is a formidable player to defend, using his 6’3 210lb frame to drive hard to the net. Willing to drop the gloves, he will suit the compact Storm Shelter and the style of hockey that his Head Coach will want to bring.
As aforementioned, Finnerty will want to make it difficult to play in the smaller rink at Altrincham and has thus has seen him add/retain the services of some sizeable players.
Returning from last year are: Dallas Erhardt (6’4 225lbs), Paul Swindlehurt (6’4 – 210lbs) and Matt Bisonnette (6’4 198lbs). The new additions include:
Jay Rosehill (mentioned above), Shane Bakker (6’4 - 210lbs), Matt Stansz (6’1 200lbs), Linden Springer (6’1 – 190lbs) and Dane Byers (6’3 – 205lbs).
Byers the Way
Signing on June 1st, Dane Byers is arguably the jewel in the crown of Finnerty’s recruitment this summer. He has size (as above) and a great CV including 14 games in the NHL, as well as spending time in Liiga, DEL and 564 games in the AHL. The former 2nd round pick to the New York Rangers will almost certainly be metaphorically and literally big for the Storm this season.
Clemente cements the back
Finally, the Storm are set to be strong between the pipes again with the return of Mike Clemente, who following his move from Rungsted in the Danish Metal Ligaen impressed in his first season with Manchester where he posted a .910 save-percentage and a 2.92 goals-against-average. The graduate of Brown University also became popular in the community and was important in growing the Storm brand. Bringing the American shot-stopper back for a second season is a sensible, solid decision by Finnerty after he backstopped them to their first post-season visit.
Tickets for tonight's game
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.
Manchester fans please book block 7.