Opponent preview: 2017/18 Guildford Flames
On Saturday, the Genting Casino Coventry Blaze face-off against the Guildford Flames in their second Challenge Cup encounter at the Spectrum. Danny Stewart's men are looking to put their first points on the board following an opening defeat against the Milton Keynes Lightning.
The current standings in Group C are as follows:
But who are the Guildford Flames? Blaze TV's Ed Kimberley picks out some of the players to look out for:
Paul Dixon’s Flames joined the top tier of British Ice Hockey from the EPL for the start of the 2017/18 season. Guildford so far on their maiden voyage in the EIHL have proven tough to overturn in regulation time. In their 6 league games they may have won only once, but have forced OT/shootouts in 3 other contests while losing 2 in regulation. Their 22 goals scored is good for 3rd most in the league, but with 30 against they have also conceded the most. The Surrey side are also ex-BNL rivals of the Coventry Blaze and many early-Blaze fans will be looking forward to renewing rivalries of old.
Brian Stewart, who spent three years with the Blaze winning the playoffs and being named Netminder of the Year and an All-Star on two occasions has sadly learnt that he will miss this weekend, and a number of others through injury. During the 32-year-old's period of absence, the Flames' goal will be looked after by Chris Carrozzi, a 27-year-old, 6'3" goalie who posted a .882 save-percentage and 3.87 goals-against-average across 41 games with Rødovre Mighty Bulls of Denmark last year. Drafted by the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers in 2008, the Italian born netminder has experience in Italy where he also played in the Continental Cup along with time in the ECHL, AHL and OHL as a junior.
As well as Brian Stewart, two more of Blaze's 2016/17 roster commited to the Flames for the current season.
Player of the season for the last campaign, Liam Stewart proved a popular figure in Coventry for his work-rate, speed, PK attributes and amiable nature. Scoring 9 goals and 11 assists in Blaze colours, the 23-year-old helped Team GB to a World Championships gold medal last April. This season so far he has 1 goal plus 3 assists in the 8 leage and cup games played.
Ben Davies meanwhile joined Blaze following a short-stint in the ECHL last season. The pint-sized Welshman making 38 appearances for Coventry during which he scored 4 goals and 10 assists. So far this season he has 3 goals and 3 assists in all competitions.
Dun Bar-illiantly So Far
John Dunbar had a strong showing last season in the ECHL with Norfolk (50 points in 61) after starting the year in France’s second tier with Mulhouse. Dunbar is a dangerous forward listed as 5’8" 174lbs who has 2x SPHL Championships with Pensacola. He played with ex-Blaze forward Ben Arnt at Quinnipac University and this season so far he has 15 points in just 8 games.
Ian Watters has made quite the splash in the EIHL, being named Player of the Week for the period ending Sunday 10th September. He completed a hat-trick in an 8-4 win against the Cardiff Devils in a Challenge Cup game. In 2 Cup games he has 4 goals and is an impressive 1+6 in 6 league games. His CV begins in Brampton for the Battalion of the OHL. Despite scoring 97 points in 161 regular season games, Watters went undrafted but found a pro-contract with the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL. He didn’t spend long in Florida before joining the SPHL with Augusta. Completing a turbulent rookie season he was loaned back to the ECHL joining Blaze Player-Assistant Coach Brett Robinson in Idaho. Prior to moving to Guildford in May, the Pickering Ontario native spent the last 4 season with the Reading Royals of the ECHL.