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Belfast Giants continue off-season business by bringing in trio of Canadians for new season as Slater Doggett moves on

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New Belfast Giants forward Steven Owre

New Belfast Giants forward Steven Owre

New Belfast Giants forward Steven Owre

The Belfast Giants have added three more names to their roster for the upcoming Elite League season with the arrivals of Canadian forwards Chad Butcher, Colby McAuley and Steven Owre.

The trio are all very familiar with each other having been team-mates with ECHL side Allen Americans in the 2020/21 season, where they also played with a couple more familiar faces in Scott Conway and Sam Ruopp.

Now the Canadian three reunite in Belfast to aid in their League and Cup defence, with Butcher and McAuley both joining after another season with the Americans, while Owre moves after spending a season in the French top division with Cergy-Pontoise.

All three players are natural centres, however it is likely at least one of them will be asked to feature on the wing at the start of the season as head coach Adam Keefe puts together his forward lines.

Owre has already spent time in Europe with Cergy-Pontoise and thrived in France by scoring 14 goals and 34 points in 33 regular season games despite a short stint on the injured list, leading them to the play-offs where they fell in the semi-finals.

The 26-year-old Edmonton native, who lives in Sacramento, California, came through juniors with WHL side Medicine Hat Tigers where he was also a team-mate of Butcher's, scoring 74 goals and 221 points in four seasons before joining the University of Alberta.

Owre was named to the USports All-Rookie Team after his key role in helping the Golden Bears win the University Cup in 2018, and he picked up 38 goals and 81 points in 96 games before making the jump into the professional ranks with the Americans in 2020, where he scored four goals and 16 points in 37 games prior to heading to France.

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“You come to a winning organisation like this and just get really excited to have a chance to win some games and win some trophies,” said Owre.

"When the opportunity came up, with everything I’ve heard from former players, it ultimately swayed my decision to come to Belfast. Hearing about how awesome the city is, the fans, and how well everything organised is.”

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New Belfast Giants forward Chad Butcher

New Belfast Giants forward Chad Butcher

New Belfast Giants forward Chad Butcher

He will now link up again with good friend Butcher, who also spent part of last season abroad with Swedish second division side HC Vita Hästen but then returned to the Americans for the second half of the campaign.

The Kamloops native, who is also 26, is coming off a season where he scored 12 goals and 34 points in 35 games for Allen and finished his four-year ECHL stint – which also included one season with the Wichita Thunder – with 30 goals and 102 points in 144 games.

Like Owre, Butcher also played six seasons with the Medicine Hat Tigers and picked up 90 goals and 279 points, while he joined his junior team-mate at the University of Alberta for one season in 2019-20, scoring eight goals and 20 points in 18 contests.

“I was looking at my options over in Europe and there were a few things here at home, but what jumped out to me was what I heard about Belfast from previous teammates was that it was just an unbelievable place to play and a great place to live,” said Butcher.

"They’re playing in the Champions League this year, which is a really good opportunity for us. It was an easy decision in the end. Part of playing hockey is about all the different experiences you can have in different places.

"I’ve heard nothing but good things about Belfast so I can’t wait, these five weeks can’t go quick enough.”

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New Belfast Giants forward Colby McAuley

New Belfast Giants forward Colby McAuley

New Belfast Giants forward Colby McAuley

The reunion will be completed by McAuley, another Edmonton man who is the most experienced of the trio in the professional game having spent six seasons split across the AHL and ECHL but is making his first foray into Europe.

Also 26, McAuley also came through the WHL but with the Prince George Cougars, scoring 48 goals and 104 points in three seasons in the junior league, before he made the step-up into the AHL with the San Jose Barracuda in 2017.

The centre spent parts of the next two seasons bouncing between the Barracuda in the AHL and the Americans and Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL before back-to-back seasons exclusively in the ECHL with the Orlando Solar Bears, Steelheads and Americans.

Last season he played 41 games split between the Steelheads and Americans, scoring 14 goals and 31 points, and also made a brief return to the AHL with the Hershey Bears, playing five games and picking up one assist for the Washington Capitals affiliate.

McAuley arrives having pocketed 59 goals and 127 points in 192 games in the ECHL, with his goal scoring a particularly appealing quality for the Giants given the loss of J.J. Piccinich from their top line.

“You’ll see all sides of me. I’ll score goals, I’ll get assists, I’ll be a two-way player and I don’t have any problems dropping the mitts any time. I’m excited and I’m sure Belfast will like it too,” grinned McAuley.

"It’s my first time going to Europe and knowing that the team did quite a job last year, you’re wanting to do more this year. I’m happy to be a part of the team and I’m here for the ride. I’m excited and can’t wait to get down there!”

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Former Belfast Giants centre Slater Doggett (Press Eye/Darren Kidd)

Former Belfast Giants centre Slater Doggett (Press Eye/Darren Kidd)

@Press Eye/Darren Kidd

Former Belfast Giants centre Slater Doggett (Press Eye/Darren Kidd)

With Butcher taking jersey No.17 for the new season, that means centre Slater Doggett will not be returning to the team for the new campaign after playing a key role in the double-winning season.

Doggett scored 20 goals and 49 points in 66 games for the Giants last season and formed one-third of a dynamic second line alongside Ben Lake and Mark Cooper.

“Slater Doggett was a core member of our winning squad last season; we'd like to thank him for his valued contribution and wish him well in his future endeavours,” commented Keefe.

"Following our success last season, we knew we would have a gap to fill as some players inevitably move on to other opportunities, or begin their lives after hockey, but that also creates opportunities to bring in fresh talent.

"We’re confident in this trio of players, they will match the intensity and competitive drive that the organisation has ingrained in its core. Colby, Chad and Steve were eager to sign in Belfast because they want to win, and they want to compete in the CHL. They’re well-rounded players who have a built-in chemistry from playing around Western Canada and the ECHL together.

"Belfast will love Colby’s physical style, and Steve and Chad are proven goal scorers, determined to be a nightmare for opposing goalies. This is definitely a trio that Giants fans should get excited about!”


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