Opponent Preview: Gothiques d'Amiens
With the reputation of the British Elite League growing within hockey circles around the world, we are starting to see more and more teams from foreign leagues looking to organise “exhibition” games with our clubs.
The Genting Casino Coventry Blaze are no exception having previously hosted teams from the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and this year we welcome French side Gothiques D’Amiens for the final game in our pre-season schedule on Wednesday September 6th (7.30pm).
They will be a strong test for Danny Stewart’s side who play their first competitive game vs. arch-rivals Nottingham Panthers on Saturday away from home. France is, according to the IIHF rankings the 13th best hockey nation in the world, ahead of the likes of Denmark, Austria, Italy and Team GB who sit 24th.
Amiens most prolific seasons were around the time that the EIHL was founded, winning the league back to back in 2002/03 and 2003/04, also adding the playoff trophy to their cabinet in 2003/04. Since then, the Gothiques have been a solid side, consistently finishing in the middle of the table, last year being no exception with 7th places finish (out of 12), losing in the quarter-finals of the playoffs.
Canadian Head Coach Mario Richer, 52, is in his second year with the club, possessing experience in Italy, Austria and Major Junior hockey in North America.
His team are back-stopped by a French duo, Lucas Savoye and Henri-Corentin Buysse, the latter the most likely starter as a former France International who has recently joined his home-town club from Dijon. The 29-year-old has a regular save-percentage of over 90% in the Ligue Magnus where he has spent all of his career since coming through the academy of Amien before spending time with Mont-Blanc, Dijon and Chamonix.
Among the Amien alumni are many players who will be familiar to EIHL fans. Last season Dundee Stars’ Dutch forward Kevin Bruijsten spent two seasons playing in the city, as did ex-Panther Marty Gascon. Polish international Jaroslaw Rzeszutko departed the Newcastle Vipers back in 2011 and joined Le Gothiques before returning to his native country. Cardiff Captain Jake Morissette also spent time with the club where in 36 games he scored 21 points before moving to Germany.
Familiar faces will also be returning to the Skydome this year as former Manchester Storm forward Mario Trabucco signed for the French side at the end of last season. The Canadian scored 14 goals and 20 assists in 54 EIHL games last year whilst adding 7 goals in 10 Challenge Cup games.
A further Manchester Storm connection is that superstar Justin Bieber skated with the team last season, as he did with Trabucco and teammates in Altrincham.
The non-familiar faces to look out for include 6’3” defenceman Todd Perry whose career has taken him to the AHL and even 9 games in the KHL with Vladivostock in 2013/14.
Philippe Halley, also a Canadian, looks like he will add scoring in his first professional season. He won back to back Cup’s in the CIS and in the QJMHL scoring 216 points in 229 games.
Perhaps their biggest foreign asset is the pint sized Finnish forward Janne Laakkonen. Although only 5’9”, the new signing for Amiens scored 335 points in 493 games in the highly rated Liiga, the top league in Finland.
The home-grown talent to keep an eye on includes French international Jeremie Romand who was one of the top scorers last season in Nice, Amiens’ rival club. He scored 19 goals with 17 assists on a poor team that ended up fighting relegation.
Experienced forward Elie Marcos may also be one for the Blaze D to watch having captained Strasbourg for the past eight seasons before joining Amiens this summer.
The French play a 44 game regular season and unlike the EIHL there are no geographical conferences.
Their playoffs too are different with a longer ‘best of’ rules format akin to the North American Hockey.
They also have import rules not too dissimilar from the EIHL, and each team must ice 11 players who have spent 3 or more years in French junior hockey.
By Ed Kimberley (@EdKimberley)
Tickets vs. Gothiques d'Amiens - Wednesday (7.30pm).
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.