It’s undoubtedly been a tough go for Stars fans of late, since their addition to the EIHL eight years ago they have for the most part been a playoff bubble team. Often just qualifying for playoffs to be bounced in the first round and sometimes not at all.
Although there was the Gardiner Conference win in 2013-14 and a playoff semifinal appearance two years ago, their goal should firstly be a 0.500 season and then to take it from there in the postseason. Last year’s team acted out a sports tale as old as time, a promising squad utterly demolished by injuries. Of every player on the roster, only one appeared in every game last year. With coach Omar Pacha even dusting off his wheels to help shore up the depleted back end.
To be clear, this was not the case in the previous incarnation of professional hockey in Dundee, nor the one before that. This is a very proud and historic hockey city where fans expect a level of competitiveness from their team. With this lacking in recent years the fans have dwindled. However the consensus opinion among Stars fans is of absolute support and confidence in Pacha who last season oversaw and upswing in attendance. Assembling a roster not too dissimilar to last season’s, the signings thus far can be grouped as;
The player fans should be most happy to see the return of is diminutive Dane, Lukas Lundvald. Brought in late last season as injury cover after spending all of his young career thus far in his native Denmark. He is a quick, hard working winger. Capable of finishing and creating plays at a high level, expected point a game guy.
In a reasonably similar boat is veteran Swede Johan Andersson who played roughly the same amount of games in an injury riddled season. The two may even combine on a top line where Andersson will likely centre. If healthy for the full term it is easy to conceive a twenty goal, fifty point campaign.
Resident big unit Brian Hart will once more don the blue, red and white as a fan-favourite from last year. Not one to throw his weight around he missed only one game last year and became by proxy one of the first names on the team sheet. He too will take a role in the top 6 and look for another 20-20-40 effort in the stats column.
A product of the Dundee Stars Junior Development who outgrew the top league in England put together a year that saw him stand out as the best player on the ice some nights. It was no strange sight to Jordan Cownie quarterbacking the Stars’ powerplay last year which just illustrates his offensive abilities and the level of trust he has already built.
No team gets started without a goalie that offers the chance to compete in every game with the potential to even steal one on a good night. The Stars look to have exactly that in Pontus Sjögren, who is unsurprisingly from Stockholm, Sweden. A top end goalie in Sweden’s second tier with bags of experience, some even in the Swedish top flight. Should be easily a top five goalie in the league.
Matt Marquardt for the first time is taking on staff duties as well as playing and will act as Assistant Coach to Omar Pacha. His history seems to have destined him for this role, a leader on his teams from junior upwards. As well as championship a piece in the Quebec Jnr League and the East Coast League. His tough game and wealth of experience will be assets to what is for the most part, a very young team. Another 20-20-40 would do nicely.
A leader on the back end will be Pacha’s fellow Quebecois Shawn Boutin. Not the biggest body or a dazzler in the boxscore he will be expected to log tough minutes and chip in offensively when he can. The defensive core especially is short on pro-experience and Boutin has the most games under his belt by far. With or without a letter he’ll be called upon to set an example.
It may be somewhat a stretch to label Mike Sullivan (no relation) a proven commodity but with three years of pro experience he isn’t exactly a rookie either. This experience was for the most part in the second tier Italian league, having spent some limited time in their top division. Difficult to know what to expect but Pacha likes something about him and he will be given a chance to prove himself on an inexperienced blue line.
Again the title of rookie is somewhat a definitive, you either are or you aren’t. The terrifically named Fabrizio Ricci is not. But with only one year in the French second league, a proven commodity he also is not, so here he lands. To Ricci’s credit he dominated last year and was top ten in the league in scoring. The hope is that his scoring touch continues even with the level stepping up.
A true first year pro fresh from the NCAA is Charles Corcoran. Leaving Brown University after four years and some decent spells of production, there is reason to be hopeful here. Not the biggest body but likely someone who can take on powerplay time and convert this to points for the Stars. He is listed as a centre and this may be where he excells, it however wouldn’t be surprising to see him start out wide and earn trust as a pivot.
Drydn Dow is what can possibly be titled a ‘classic Pacha’ signing, a young, quick d-man with hopefully a simple game and a good first pass. This isn’t any secret tactic however, it’s a coaches dream to have three or four defencemen like this. He completed a full four years in the WHL and five years at the University of Calgary and looks to be no slouch in the points column.
Almost identical to Dow is Connor Cox, one year older and from Lethbridge, AB as opposed to Calgary, AB it’s a safe bet these two are familiar with one another. Most recently they would have faced off quite often as Cox attended University of Saskatchewan for the last five years. He does seem less impressive offensively but again if he has the transitional game the Stars were desperately trying to execute last season he could prove valuable.
To recognise Jordan Cownie appropriately he was not listed here but rather as a contributor nearer the top end of the lineup. However a player who was everywhere in the lineup last year apart from in net was Kris Inglis. With hopefully a more consistent Stars lineup this season he will feature on defence at his most comfortable. Still only 20 he will look up to even the newly pro-players in the lineup and take further strides in his game, the fans certainly back him.
The same age and a product of the Ontario Hockey Academy, Craig Garrigan is both a rookie and a local lad. He appears to have shown himself well in time spent in North America and rightfully earns his first professional contract and an opportunity to show how well he can hang at this level. Looking to be nearer the top end of Scottish OHA graduates it does seem promising at this stage.
This leaves the Stars with three import slots left, likely at least two forwards to come in the remaining three. Budget constraints definitely mean Pacha has to pick smart and get value for money. It’s unlikely there will be any Jay Rosehills or Zack Fitzgeralds in the remaining roster gaps. At least another scorer and a top end centre would be ideal to round out the lineup but only time will tell. The primary concern is that they stay healthy and give themselves the best chance to compete for playoffs and indeed once they get there.