Soon time will be upon us when our weekends are filled with the joy of watching our beloved teams hit the ice for 8 months of rough and tumble, goals and fights plus the odd trophy along the way (hopefully).
Last season ended on a slightly sour note losing to our fierce rivals in the playoff semi-final in the dying moments after blue liner Dan Spang’s injury time goal against Belfast got us there.
Fast-forward 3 months and its all change in Nottingham. Gone is the legendary Corey Neilson and in his place Canadian, ex NHL New Jersey Devils forward Rich Chernomaz, who has previous experience managing in Germany and at international level with Hungary.
Our Brit pack is back including Steve Lee, in his testimonial year at the young age of 27! The only returning imports are D man Tim Billingsley, fan favourite Luke Pither and veteran netminder Michael Garnett completing his second year of a University degree course.
Gone are Evan Mosey and Jeff Brown both of which were loved by the Panthers faithful, swapping the gold and black for Europe much to the dismay of fans.
In, is an influx of new talent such players as blue liner Dylan Olsen, first round draft pick for the Chicago Blackhawks back in 2009, a man who has played in no less than 124 NHL games at only 27 an astute addition in my opinion
Back is our former grand slam winner Guillaume Lepine, a fans favourite enforcer, who during his time away from Nottingham has gone on to play in numerous AHL and ECHL games, by all accounts he is returning as a matured player, no longer just seen as just muscle.
With D men like this its hoped that the ship has steadied at the back as there were times last season when needless goals were conceded.
Adding to our forward line is the vastly experienced Mark Hurtubise, former Edinburgh Capitals star and Elite League top points scorer back in 08/09, most certainly brought in to lead the 1st line.
Fans will be hoping that 10 years down the line he can still produce and score the vital goals required and can also inspire our younger players, including Jordan Kelsall who will hope for more game time this time around after spending a period of time with the Swindon Wildcats on a two way deal.
Alongside these will be an experienced right winger, fresh from the top league in Austria and 5 NHL match participant 31 year old Canadian, Jon Rheault. It’s hoped that he will add pace to a team now missing the departed nimble Evan Mosey.
Adding to them, the skill and attacking prowess of Luke Pither, Panthers should have some decent firepower going forward.
Numerous other players have been added and Panthers now have strength in depth.
These include towering 6’4″ 24 year old defender Jaynen Rissling from Indy Fuel in the ECHL, third round draft pick for Dallas Stars, 26 year old winger Alexander Guptill from the Allen Americans also in the ECHL and 25 year old Denver native Jacob Doty whom has experience of the EIHL, where he played 56 games for the Glasgow Clan last season.
The new man at the helm believes that in time he can build a team that will challenge for trophies:
“Nottingham did very well in the champions league last year. We want to win trophies, especially the league, domestically, but it will be a process” said Chernomaz upon taking the role.
Nobody can deny that the new boss has brought in some decent hockey men with decent pedigrees, players that won’t be bullied, players with experience across other continents as well as players that have played in the EIHL previously.
According to website Elite Prospects, Panthers have the heaviest and one of the tallest teams in the league so far, showing that Chermonaz views size and structure as a key element to his side going forward. They will clearly have a presence on the ice.
The Panthers faithful hope that Chernomaz has the team assembled that can bring success back to Nottingham but only time will tell.
“Lets go Panthers”