Goaltender Cree steps in to solve the Giants problem
Teenager Adam Cree last night became the fourth goaltender to sign for the Belfast Giants this season, with just seven weeks of the campaign gone.
The Belfast-born goalie has been drafted in by the Giants to provide back-up to Stevie Lyle after Hugh Smyth decided to leave the club.
Lyle himself has played only three games in a Giants shirt after he was recruited to replace the out-of-sorts Philippe DeRouville, who was released by player-coach Ed Courtenay.
Now, in a season that has already seen four players added to the roster in the last five weeks - five if the temporary return of general manager Todd Kelman to the ice is included - the team has brought in a sixth goalie in less than two seasons.
Smyth has walked away from the Giants just a few months after finally being given the chance to cement his name on the team's roster.
Brought in towards the end of last season when Irish internatinal Kevin Kelly quit the club, Smyth has been waiting his chance to become a Giant for a number of seasons and he started one game, against the Newcastle Vipers, when DeRouville was rested shortly after he arrived to replace the injured Mike Minard.
The job of a back-up goalie in the Elite League is a thankless one, though, and there is far more time spent opening the door on the bench than stopping pucks on the ice.
And the constant travelling for away games without seeing any ice time has finally taken its toll on Smyth, who cited family and work commitments as the reason for his departure from the club.
"I know that all the guys, myself included, are sad to see Hugh Smyth go," said Kelman, in his official capacity of general manager.
"We are supportive of his decision that family and work commitments have to come first."
Seventeen-year-old Cree had been expected to be part of the new Junior Giants set-up this season, but now he has been given the unexpected opportunity to train with the Elite League porfessionals.
He is no stranger to the Odyssey ice, though, having made a cameo appearance in Kelman's testimonial game last season.
He becomes the third homegrown goaltender to be part of the Giants set-up, following in the footsteps of Smyth and former crowd favourite Chris McGimpsey.
"We are limited at this time of year in finding someone to fill the back-up role on the team, but luckily a player like Adam is living and playing locally and can step in for the next few weeks to help us out," added Kelman.
"Right now, it is a temporary solution, but if the kid comes in and can step up to the level of the Elite League we would be more than happy to have him with us for the season."