New faces ready to get going for Belfast Giants ahead of Manitoba test
There will be 11 new faces on the ice for the Belfast Giants this season - and one returning after a year away - and the arrivals can't wait to take to the ice in this weekend's exhibition games against the University of Manitoba.
The Giants' most recent addition, forward Hunter Bishop who was announced last night, won't be available just yet, however the rest of the roster should be lined up and ready to go after Francis Beauvillier arrived in this afternoon.
That means Adam Keefe will have a 22-man roster to select from this weekend, with the plan being that everyone will get some game time against the Bisons.
It's a tough problem to have for the coach, whose side was constantly plagued by injuries last season and ended up running only three lines and makeshift defensemen to cover gaps. This season, health permitting, he'll have a different conundrum - deciding who will be a healthy scratch on game night.
Perhaps one of the toughest calls will be who starts between the pipes, with new signing Tyler Beskorowany earning rave reviews in training camp and testimonial man Stephen Murphy a British international.
28-year old Beskorowany, from Ontario, played in the Elite League last season for the now disbanded Edinburgh Capitals, and the former DEL star says he's ready to get back to his best form after a tough year in the Scottish capital.
"It was a little bit of a grind last year in Edinburgh but it got me back on my feet after a year and a half out," says Beskorowany, who posted an .894 save percentage in 15 games with the Capitals.
"But I'm excited to be with Belfast now, we've got a great group of guys and we've got high expectations."
In front of him, the blue line will be manned by an exciting group, led by the experience of former NHLer Jim Vandermeer and backed by the British duo of new arrival Paul Swindlehurst and the returning Mark Garside - who is battling from back from an injury-hit campaign last time out.
Other new names include French-Canadian skater Guillaume Gelinas, University of Saskatchewan duo Kendall McFaull and Josh Roach - who can also play forward - and shutdown man Curtis Leonard, who last season was named the ECHL's Best Defensive Defenseman.
"Throughout the years I've been paired with more offensive players and been given a more responsible role, killing penalties and clearing pucks out," explained Leonard, who has been skating with Roach so far in training camp.
"I take pride in playing defense, playing hard and competing every night, and I think it translates into getting the puck into the forwards' hands and being successful."
This season will feature a strong British flavour, with Garside and Swindlehurst joined in the forwards by long-serving veteran Colin Shields, the returning Jonathan Boxill and new arrival Lewis Hook, while fan favourite Matt Towe has signed on as injury cover.
Hook in particular is an exciting new addition to the line-up having scored 26 points for the Milton Keynes Lightning last season at the age of just 21, and the winger is looking forward to learning off the other local guys on the roster.
"There's a very good British core here," Hook said. "You've got vets like Shieldsy and Garside and Murph, and with the likes of Boxy, Swinny and myself, we just want to learn off them. Anything we can pick up off them is good for us.
"I had a good year last year but, especially with Keefer in as coach, hopefully I can keep improving and see how it goes from there."
Popular winger Darcy Murphy returns for a second season in teal, as do Jonathan Ferland and Dustin Johner, while club captain Blair Riley and winger David Rutherford also take their places on the roster for their third seasons in Belfast.
The forwards are rounded out by a hugely talented quartet in Bishop, who will complete the roster when he arrives next week, former NHL winger Patrick Dwyer and the pair of Beauvillier and Kyle Baun, who both join directly from the AHL.
Manitoba will provide a tough test for the Giants this weekend in the final two games of their week-long trip to the UK, which has also seen them face the Manchester Storm (4-3 loss) and the Fife Flyers (2-1 win).
Goaltender Dasan Sydora has been in fine form for the Bisons, while their key forward is captain Brett Stovin who has ECHL experience and impressed in the defeat to the Storm.
Belfast Telegraph Digital