The 2017/2018 season for Panther fans was a little on the disappointing side. After an unbelievable run in the CHL (Champions Hockey League); defeating European giants the likes of: SC Bern, TPS Turku and Mountfield HK, to then struggling in domestic territory to even string a win together. The 2017/2018 season also saw legends of the club, head coach and ex-defence Corey Neilson, and forward David Clarke disembark from their long journey with the Nottingham Panthers.
With Corey gone, it meant that the club had the tough job of finding a replacement with the ability of taking the team in a fresh direction. In mid-April, the club announced that Corey’s successor was to be Canadian born Rich Chernomaz. With an impressive resume of coaching international sides: Team Canada, Team Hungary, as well as being a two-time DEL winning coach; it isn’t hard to see why fans are excited for the fast-approaching season ahead. Chernomaz has clearly outlined his key ideology to take into the new era for the panthers: “I like to play an offensive-minded and an aggressive type of system”. Chernomaz started recruitment straight away, after reportedly already planning his team, even before his post was fully confirmed.
The Current Nottingham Panthers 2018/2019 Roster
Returning Players From Last Season
Brett Perlini – Centre Forward
Brett returns for his second season with the Panthers, after an incredible run in the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) with Great Britain; totalling 6 points in the 5 games of the competition with 4 goals and 2 assists. Brett was an integral part of the GB squad and played a vital role in them bringing home gold in April of this year; which has led to Great Britain now being a part of the World Championship group, and to face the likes of Team Canada and Team USA. Because of this; his re-signing was a more than necessary move that Chernomaz needed to make. The new head coach was very keen to get Brett into the squad; saying that “He’s a key player for us, it’s as simple as that.” As well as having a great run in the international side of the 2017/2018 ice hockey season, he also put up impressive numbers domestically for the Panthers: with 19 goals and 35 assists, in the 56 league games played. With top Brits such as Ben O’Connor, who has left the Steelers for KHL side Barys Astana and Liam Kirk, also from the Steelers, making his mark in America, partaking in the NHL Combine; securing Perlini was one of the most important moves that the Panthers will make this season.
Robert Farmer – Forward
The Panthers’ agitator is back for his sixth season with the club. Hailing from Nottingham itself, the local forward is looking to continue his success in the new era of the club, following Neilson’s departure. Farmer played alongside Perlini in this years’ IIHF competition, and scored the last minute goal in the final game to secure GB’s promotion to the top division. Additionally, Farmer plays an aggressive, drive to the net style of hockey, that will fit in perfectly with Chernomaz’s tactics.
Stephen Lee – Defence
The 2017/18 captain for the Panthers makes his return for his 10th season with the club. He is a player that is fond of the physical side of the game; famous in the team for his hip checks. Lee is a decent re-signing, due to the fact that he is a fairly consistent defencemen, that makes quick and smart decisions in games.
Ollie Betteridge – Forward
Ollie is a Nottingham lad through and through, having gone through the Nottingham junior teams before joining the Panthers. While last season he only produced 14 points (5 goals and 9 assists), he has been an incredible play maker. Ollie is a forechecker that battles and battles for the puck, and has the ability of perseverance. He just does not stop skating until he has the puck. As well as this, he was a crucial member of the penalty kill line; and was able to hold the puck up really well, to let the time run out, until the kill was over. With him being at the young age of only 22, it will be very exciting to see him progress within the Elite League.
Robert Lachowichz – Forward
Another player who climbed Nottingham’s junior ranks to the Panthers, is long time player for the club, Robert Lachowichz. He returns for his 12th season at the franchise, and will be interesting to see how he gels in the new era of the club, with Chernomaz’s tactics of aggressive plays. This is because, he isn’t much of a physical player. That being said, Lacho has played a vital role in the penalty kill line alongside afore mentioned Betteridge. Like Ollie, he holds the puck up well, and is a great forechecker. Forward’s are closely associated with scoring, however, Robert is a forward who’s skillset resides in setting up goals, and will be great to see the local lad back in black and gold in the new season.
Tim Billingsley – Defence
The ex-ECHL defenceman joined the Panthers in the 2017/18 season, and makes a return this year. Last year he put up 26 points in 56 games (10 goals and 16 assists), which for a defenceman are numbers that can’t be grumbled at. Nicknamed the ‘Billdozer’, he is a very physical player that likes to use his body to get the puck, and so will make a great fit for the new year.
Sam Gospel – Goalie
Sam, having only played 5 games for the Panthers, is looking to prove himself at the club this year, as he makes his return after last year being the 3rd Goalie for the Panthers, with joint top Goalies: Galbraith and Garnett, playing the majority of the games. Hopefully, Panthers’ fans get to see more of the 24 year old this coming season, and allow him to prove himself worthy at the team.
Tommy Hughes – Defence
The 26 year old Canadian makes his debut in British Hockey this year. For the past 5 seasons, Tommy has played in the AHL, and halfway through last season, made the switch to the ECHL side the South Carolina Stingrays. Chernomaz is excited for this signing, claiming that Hughes has not yet reached his potential, and with previous clubs, may have been held back. Additionally, he states in an interview with Panthers Radio ‘Xynomix’, that he is a “two way defenceman”, which is a great attribute that not all defenceman posses, and so will be great to see him play in the season ahead.
Dylan Olsen – Defence
In 2009, Olsen was a first round draft pick for the Chicago Blackhawks, and has played 80 games in the NHL overall; also having played for the Florida Panthers. The new head coach was thrilled to have secured Dylan and has said the following words about the 27 year old: “Dylan is a young, very strong, very big, very powerful defenceman that has a lot of offensive qualities to his game. He is a guy that had a tremendous start to his career.”
Jacob Doty – Forward
Jacob debuted in the EIHL last year, with the Braehead Clan. He picked up 35 points with 16 goals and 19 assists. While those numbers sound pleasing, he also managed to get 157 penalty minutes, which is a bit alarming. For Panther fans who watched last season; one of the problems of the team was that they spent an awful amount of time in the sin bin. And so, is a worry that Doty may continue to produce high penalty minutes again, and hinder the rest of the team back. Of course, that is only conjecture, and hopefully will keep his cool a little better than last year.
Justin Kovacs – Forward
The American forward has spent the beginning of his professional career in the ECHL, before last season making a switch to Slovakian side HK Nitra. And so, the coming season will be his British Ice Hockey debut. He is said to skate well, and be more of a playmaker than a prolific goalscorer, but still ascertain the ability to hit the back of the net.