EPL Predictions 2016-2017

Tonight is the first game of the Swindon Wildcats winter, so it’s time to put my head on the line once again and say where I think each team will be finishing this season, and the players I think it’s worth keeping an eye on over the course of the campaign.

10th – Bracknell Bees

It’s been yet another tough off-season for the Bees, but they survived the prospect of going bust, and live to survive another day. Lukas Smital has built a young roster, with a few promising young British forwards but there isn’t much experience in the roster. The imports (Smital aside) are generally young and unproven. It could be a case that Smital has unearthed a gem like Telford did with Tomas Karpov. The Bees goal threats seem to be Luka Basic, Krystof Kafan and the familiar names like Smital, Galazzi and Scott Spearing.

Unfortunately for Bees fans I don’t see them finishing anywhere other than 10th. They’ll cause a few upsets along the season and with the new management, they’re going to much stronger off the ice. This is going to be a long building process in Bracknell, with Lukas Smital at the club they’ve got the right man to be in charge.

OTP One To Watch: Luka Basic

9th – Sheffield Steeldogs

This Sheffield team is an interesting one, they’ve got some very good imports in Arnoldas Bosas & Donatas Kumeliauskas but I do think their Brit pack is lacking the scoring touch a bit. Tom Squires will be a massive loss, and I think the duo of Liam Kirk and Cole Shudra may be quality prospects but to be the leading Brits for Sheffield will be a massive ask. I mentioned the imports being good and the duo of Bosas and Kumeliauskas will cause havoc in the EPL, they’ll both be in the top 10 EPL point scorers. The netminding of James Hadfield will be something to keep an eye one as well, a talented player but coming off a year out injured to an EPL starter is going to be a tough job.

This Dogs team reminds me of the Bees team a few years ago. Pinc and Cesky tore the league up and the Bees just missed out on the playoffs. I think the Dogs will be similar. They’re going to make a very good run at the top 8, I just think they’ll be the unlucky side to come up a little short come March.

OTP One To Watch: James Hadfield

8th – Manchester Phoenix

Another crazy off-season for the Phoenix, another temporary home this time further north in Blackpool. Although the promise is there of EPL hockey in Manchester by November. We’ll wait and see on that front (no puns intended). Much of the same really for Manchester at the back-end of the team. The household names like Boothroyd, Fone, Wood and Neil are all there but up front it is much different. The likes of Archer & Corson-Heron have moved on and as we write this only replaced by Edgars Bebris, who’s sure to be a hit with the Phoenix fans, even if he has Steeldogs links.

The imports look top drawer again, we know what Robin Kovar can bring, but the new duo of Roman Malinik and in particular Jakub Langhammer look like they could be real threats in the EPL. They’re going to rack up ice time and they should rack up points. Plus, let’s be honest when does Tony Hand sign bad import forwards? They need more British depth if they want to be nearer the top 4 but unfortunately I don’t see where they can get that at this stage of the season. They’ll be competitive and if they get their move back home, they’ll win games in Manchester, for now though I see this team in 8th place.

OTP One To Watch – Jakub Langhammer

7th – Hull Pirates

Second season for the Pirates and they’ve had their first full summer to recruit. Dom Osman hasn’t wasted his opportunity and some good players have joined the Pirate ship. Jason Hewitt, Ryan Watt, Lee Haywood and Nathan Salem give them some real strong British depth to complement the likes of Bonner and Gent who they relied on last year. The main question mark I have about this team is the netminding. Jordan Marr is good, but I’m not sure he’ll be consistent enough for 54 games over a season. That said, if he surprises me the Pirates have a very good team, and will be higher than 7th.

The imports will be solid enough, Stan Lascek has scored points at every club he’s played for in the EPL. Ugnius Cizas and Andrej Themar look decent enough and Jaroslav Sarsok will be a towering D man at the back. Ultimately I see a massive improvement on the team that finished the season in Hull but again, it’s a developing process.

OTP One To Watch – Lee Bonner

6th – Peterborough Phantoms

They say offense wins you games and defence wins you championships. I don’t think the defence in Peterborough is enough to win silverware but I think it’ll be strong enough for a top 6 finish. Janis Auzins will be absolutely massive for the Phantoms this season. If he plays at his best, they’ll be hard to score on and thus hard to beat. With the likes of Tom Norton, Scott Robson & Rob Ferrara in front of him, opponents will definitely have their work cut out. The Phantoms have lost a lot of firepower this summer with Craig Scott, Milan Baranyk and Edgars Bebris moving on. James Archer and Marc Levers will be relied upon as will Darius Pliskauskas and new arrival Petr Stepanek.

The Phantoms may not be a free-flowing as in previous years but perhaps a focus more on the defensive side of the game will suit them this year. Slava has proved to be a shrewd coach in the league and is someone who’ll get a lot out of the likes of Owen Griffiths, Sam Towner and Martins Susters. The netminding of Auzins will help them to a 6th spot finish in my eyes.

OTP One To Watch – Tom Norton

5th – Swindon Wildcats

The summer has been a steady one in Swindon. Not too many changes and a team which is much of the same. Mark Smith and Max Birbraer the only two completely new faces to the side which should make it easier for the team to gel into the first few weeks of the season. The OHA graduates will provide a breath of fresh air and they’re going to be determined to take their chances when they come to them. Adam Finlinson in particular certainly has the potential to go a long way in the EPL. The top line will cause trouble in every ice rink but the depth scoring will need to improve for the Cats to make it into the top 4.

Stevie Lyle in the pipes will relish the chance to focus purely on the netminding aspect again and will be at his best once again. Callum Buglass has had a very impressive pre-season for Cardiff and will be looking to make a real step forward again this season.Ultimately Aaron has assembled a good side, with a lot of experience and potential. I’m really excited to see what he can bring out of this team this season.

OTP One To Watch – Callum Buglass

4th – Guildford Flames

Last years playoff winners haven’t made too many changes either. Mike Will has joined to provide netminding cover and Sam Waller has joined up to increase the potential of the best defensive unit in the EPL in my opinion. The D in front of Ullberg was the reason the Flames won the playoffs in the way they did. They were spectacular in the playoffs and will make the Flames incredibly hard to beat again. Sam Waller only improves this unit who at times was only 4 men strong last year.

Up front the Flames will struggle with the loss of Lee Esders and more prominently Matt Towe. They also have only 9 forwards on the roster, whilst every forward they have is good I think depth may cause them a couple of problems this year. There is a lot of hockey to play in the EPL and with just the 9 forwards if they find themselves with an injury or two I think they’ll begin to come unstuck no matter how good the defence is.

OTP One To Watch – Ben Campbell

3rd – Basingstoke Bison

The league champions didn’t need to change the roster up, they were the best side last year for a reason. Adding Vanya Antonov and Lewis Turner from Bracknell only increases the strength of the side. Peter Polodna will be relied upon to replace the points of Joe Greener who retired. Tomas Hiadlovsky will be strong between the pipes again and hopefully will be playing the entire season and can stay injury free.

Familiar Bison names such as Ciaran Long, Aaron Connolly, Alan Lack and Tomas Karpov will be threats as usual but a team like this is used to winning and they’ll be contending once again this season without a doubt. Even the late departure of Miroslav Vantroba won’t be enough to stop the Bison finishing top 3 in my opinion. No matter what state the rink might be in, the Bison ice rink will be a formidable place to go and play again this year.

OTP One To Watch – Vanya Antonov

2nd – Telford Tigers

I’d said all summer, Telford’s finishing position would depend on their import signings. Ondrej Raszka, Doug Clarkson, Milan Kolena, Michal Satek and Jason Silverthorn may be the best import line up in the league. This is before you add GB internationals Jonathan Weaver and Matty Davies. This is a very well put together team. Tom Watkins has done well, he addressed the changes that had to be made and as recruited well this summer.

They’ve got good depth, they’ve got goals, they’ve got speed and they’ve got very good netminding. There isn’t much this Telford team doesn’t have and their opening pre-season results will be things to smile about for the Tigers fan base. Ultimately, I see only one thing stopping them from winning the league this year and that’s the MK Lightning.

OTP One To Watch – Matty Davies

1st – MK Lightning

In what will be their final EPL season the Lightning recruited quickly to secure a roster worthy of winning the league. Przemyslaw Odrobny will be up there with the best in the UK this year let alone the EPL. The defence looks very strong with the familiar names of Farn, Jamieson, Christie & Griffin all returning. Up front Mikolaj Lopuski could be a real find. Frankie Bakrlik will be at his usual destructive best, the Peterborough duo of Craig Scott and Milan Baranyk will score for fun. Tom Carlon is no slouch in the EPL even if he has been away for a year and I’ve not even mentioned the tremendous duo of Lewis Hook and Jordan Cownie.

This MK team has everything, strength in-depth, strong imports, exciting young British players. I can’t see past them in the title race. With Pete Russell on the bench as well they’re going to be chomping at the bit to make sure their last EPL season will be a memorable one. They’ve got ticks in all the boxes and for me will be league champions come March.

OTP One To Watch – Mikolaj Lopuski

So there we have it, the predictions are down. Watch me be totally wrong by March but hey, it’s only a bit of fun!

The EPL is back, enjoy the season!!

 

 

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OTP Special: KHL in Cardiff

In a special edition of On The Prowl it’s time to look ahead to the new ice hockey season in the UK. Next weekend in Cardiff the Devils are hosting a special weekend of hockey with games against KHL side Medvescak Zagreb. IMG_3852

For those of you thinking about going, or who may not have realised the event was happening OTP spoke with Stevie Lyle who has had a big role in organising the weekend of games. Hear our conversation with Stevie below, he’ll tell you exactly why you should be going. We cover the KHL weekend and even touch on the season ahead with the Wildcats.

The weekend promises to be an absolutely brilliant weekend of hockey. The Zagreb team will be of a standard well above all British Hockey. The KHL is the second best league in the world (after only the NHL) and they’re going to pose a real threat to the Cardiff team. The players in the KHL side are top players. Shaone Morrisonn is one to watch after playing 480 NHL games, Gilbert Brule played 299 NHL games. They’re all excellent players and Cardiff will have their work cut out.

That said, any British sports fan knows we love to be the underdogs. The Cardiff players, as Stevie alluded to, will be raising their games for the matches on the Saturday and Sunday and they’ll be looking forward to the chance of beating one of the best sides in Europe. The likes of Ben Bowns, Matt Myers and Joey Martin (amongst all the others) will be really looking forward to these games.

I said at the start of this piece that it would be a weekend you won’t want to miss. Games like this are rare, if you’re able to go the games we urge you to do it. You won’t be disappointed and the hockey will be of the highest standard.

To purchase tickets, click the link – http://www.cardiffdevils.com/tickets/match-tickets/

Saturday 13th August – 7pm Face-off

Sunday 14th August – 6pm Face-off

We’ll see you there!

All photos used in this article are done so with the permission of Nicky Pearce. Please do not use them without seeking her permission first. We also thank Stevie Lyle for taking time out to speak to the blog.

Roster Review 16-17

On the final day of the final month before the hockey season gets underway I felt it was only right to take a slightly more in-depth look into the Wildcats roster as a whole, and even make a horrendously wrong prediction for the way I think Aaron will line the team up for the start of the season.

The summer has generally felt like quite a familiar one for the Wildcats faithful, most of the signings we’ve made are familiar ones. The key forward trio of Jonas Hoog, Tomasz Malasinski and player/coach Aaron Nell were all re-signed early as well as the massive re-signing of Stevie Lyle to a new 3-year contract.

The only two new faces to the Cats fans this off-season were both imports. Max Birbraer arrived from Telford and Mark Smith arrived from Cardiff in the EIHL. Both players fit into the ethos that Aaron wanted to put into place, they’re hard working players who will put the team first. Aaron has made no secret in the fact he wants a hard-working team who battle for each other in a similar fashion to the way Basingstoke have gone around business in the last 2/3 years.

Both Mark and Max will be key to the Cats this year. Mark will need to be the guy who replaces Matt Selby at the back, he’s going to have to play lots of minutes and block a lot of shots. His game is set around a defence first mind-set and that is exactly what we need. With the likes of Callum Buglass, Ollie Stone and Ben Nethersell being young British D men they all have something to learn from the likes of Liddiard and Smith. Max himself will be a proper power forward, something I think Swindon have lacked in the last few years, Max will work all over the ice and is going to make big hits on the fore-check.

I think his style of play is really going to benefit us in the Link and the smaller rinks in the EPL. If he plays on a line with Jan Kostal (which I think he will) they’ll be the strongest imports in the league, they could form a really good partnership up front for us. The Cats have also looked at investing in youth with OHA promotions for Kyle Smith, Adam Finlinson, Ollie Stone and Ben Nethersell alongside re-signings Toms Rutkis and Michael Stratford.

All these youngsters have the ability to compete and produce at EPL level. They’re going to be breaths of fresh air on the ice for Swindon and they all have tremendous amounts of skill. The OHA programme is the best in the country and the Wildcats are really reaping the benefits of it. These boys are used to winning and it’s something they’re going to want to continue this season.

So familiarity is the key for the Wildcats roster, but is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. We’re going to be competitive, we’re going to cause a few surprises along the way and we’ve got a team who’ll turn up every night and battle for every puck. Aaron as coach will be shrewd, he’s got a very good hockey brain and I think he may flourish in this role this season. For what it’s worth this is how I think the Wildcats will line up this season:

Tomasz Malasinski – Aaron Nell – Jonas Hoog

Toms Rutkis – Jan Kostal – Max Birbraer

Kyle Smith – Sam Bullas – Floyd Taylor

Adam Finlinson – Michael Stratford

 

Mark Smith – Callum Buglass

Stevie Whitfield – Lee Richardson

Neil Liddiard – Ollie Stone

Ben Nethersell

 

Stevie Lyle

Michael Crisp

The wait is nearly over, tomorrow at 9am we find out who we’re playing on the opening night of the EPL season. July is over, August is virtually here. The Wildcats play their first game in August, the wait is days and weeks now, not weeks and months. Enjoy the last few days of summer, the winter is here.

 

 

 

Looking Ahead…

So the team has been finalised, the countdown has officially been done. The first announcement that brings us closer to the new ice hockey season is the announcement of the pre-season fixtures. The Wildcats announced their pre-season schedule this week and it was a slightly fresher schedule and one which all fans can count down to.

Pre-season is always fun, after such a long break the excitement will be there from game one and it’ll be good to see the new faces in each team on both sides of the ice. We’re playing this year against Bracknell and Basingstoke.

I know a few people wonder why we play against EPL sides when there are other teams we could be playing. It’d be brilliant if we had a pre-season game against Coventry or Cardiff but it won’t happen. The EIHL is so much bigger than the EPL nowadays, in the past these games may have worked but I don’t think they will at the moment. It won’t be of any benefit to them to be playing against a side below their abilities. It won’t test them and the EPL sides will be pushed around too much. It would be a brilliant event for a fan but I don’t see it ever happening. The EIHL teams are now attracting big names from Europe for their challenge games, sadly I think the days have passed when they may have been looking at the EPL for warm-up games.

Bracknell are a team we’ve been playing in pre-season for many years now. It brings with it its own rivalries in the ‘M4 Series’. It’s been well publicised that Bracknell have had difficulties over the last 12 months, they’ve got new owners and an incredibly motivated Lukas Smital in control of the team. They’re going to pose an interesting challenge for us in pre-season. They’ve got a few regular Bracknell players back in Scott Spearing, Matt Foord and James Galazzi. Although you’ve got 4 imports that will be unknown to most of the Cats players.

We’re going to need to be careful, but clinical. I’m sure we’re going to have chances to win the game and the games against Bracknell will be tough physically. In many ways, it’s an unknown Bracknell team and they’re going to have a point to prove, they’re not going to be a pushover. I’m looking forward to these games because the atmosphere is always brilliant and the games are always tight. Who can forget that mammoth game at the link last December!

Basingstoke, for us in pre-season at least, are new opponents. This will be the first time since Bison joined the league we’ve played each other in pre-season. Last season Basingstoke were the best side over the majority of the season. They rightfully earned their league title and have built another roster capable of launching a title challenge. I think the big arrival for Basingstoke was Vanya Antonov from Bracknell, Vanya is probably the best prospect in the EPL and a season under Doug Sheppard should be another good step for his development.

Basingstoke are going to be a real test. As a team they’re one of the toughest to break down. They’re solid, it may not be spectacular and at times it can be tough to watch but their depth is key and I’m glad we’re playing them in pre-season. We may as well take on the best from last year in game one.

For now, Basingstoke and Bracknell will be a good test for Swindon, we won’t have any long trips like Deeside and Hull last year and it’ll be nice to renew some rivalries right at the start of the 2016-2017 season.

The Famous Five

Monday saw the Wildcats complete their import line-up for the 2016-2017 season. With the league deciding to increase the import limit to 5 saw the Cats add new faces Mark Smith and Max Birbraer into the locker room for September. So why not look at what each import will be needing to bring to the team for the upcoming campaign.

Jan Kostal

The Wildcats captain of 2 seasons is back to lead the team once again. Since his arrival in 2013 he immediately made an impact on and off the ice. Having spent many years with Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, his committed attitude on the ice quickly made him one of the Cats most important players in recent years. Kostal 1The professionalism off the ice made him an ideal candidate for captain. He’s led the team well over the last two seasons and there is no reason why he shouldn’t during the forthcoming campaign.

He’s developed an ability to be our go to guy in clutch situations. He scored the penalty shot that secured our place at the 2014 finals weekend, and has scored many big goals at big times for the Cats. Jan is also a penalty killing machine, there is no player I would swap him for on a shorthanded line. He blocks shots for fun and is an ultimate warrior. Another season leading from the front will show the young players how to be successful in their careers.

Tomasz Malasinski

Tomasz is one-third one of the most dangerous line in the EPL. The line of Malasinski/Nell/Höög has absolutely everything. A brilliant playmaker, and two lethal snipers. Tomasz needs to be scoring for us next season and the Polish international will be doing that for fun next year. Tomasz 1He’s settled into the UK now and his second season with the Cats was one of his best in his career. He finished in the top 5 point scorers and certainly has the ability to be doing that again this season. Similar to Jan, Tomasz is a ultimate professional on and off the ice and is someone the junior players can really look up and develop their game from.

Swindon are lucky to have such a talented forwards in their ranks, not too many teams have international players in their ranks. To have his signature for two years is massive, he’s got the ability to lead the team in scoring and the other players in the team feed off his work rate and the fan base absolutely love him. Any success the Cats might have in 2017 will have been helped massively by Tomasz Malasinski.

Max Birbraer

Max was the first new signing of the off-season. His arrival from Telford was one that pleased many of the fans in Swindon. Needing to replace Carlo Finucci, the Cats always faced a tough search but I believe they’ve done the right thing here. Birbraer 1Max will balance a few things out and give us a bit of a dimension we’ve not really seen in Swindon for a few years. He’s a big physical forward who won’t be afraid to make hit. Since the days of Jon Sitko on defence I’ve felt we’ve lacked a big hitting player. Max can be that guy, he’ll boost a team toughness without going out looking for fights.

His game is not all physicality, he’s a good hockey player as well. Another player who’s had international experience and had many years in the EIHL. He has a big booming shot on him and will put up numbers from a second or third line. I’m really looking forward to seeing how he develops an understanding with Jan Kostal, as if they play together, I think they’ll be a good duo to have. Hopefully he can be a part of the team we’ve not really had before.

Mark Smith

Mark Smith may be a bit of a unknown to some of the fans. The younger of the Smith brothers, Mark arrived in the UK signing for Edinburgh before spells with Cardiff and Coventry. He’s a really calm stay at home D man, defence is his priority and that is where he will excel. With the departure of Matt Selby to the EIHL it was imperative the Cats replaced him on the blue-line and the arrival of Smith will really do that. Another experienced head at the back-end will really help the development of Buglass, Stone & Nethersell.

Many fans have complimented our signing of Mark and has said he’ll stop more shots than Stevie Lyle over the course of the season. If he’s been doing that over 54 games then he’ll be worth the pennies we’ll be paying him. Hopefully his signing will mean Kenton will be back behind the bench as well but Mark will be key to our defence this season and I can’t wait to see him on the ice for the first game of the season.

Jonas Höög

Last but by no means least, Jonas Höög the EPLs favourite Swede. Swindon fans know exactly what to expect from Jonas and that is exactly why he’s my favourite player in the league. Jonas has a wonderful eye for a pass and has a telepathic understanding with Nell and is quickly developing one with Tomasz Malasinski. Jonas arrived in Swindon and it almost felt like a new Höög. Hoog 1This season we’ll be expecting the same, he’ll be at the top of the assist charts for sure. He’s undoubtedly a fan favourite and has moments of magic the fans have learned to expect.

If he can continue his understanding with Nell and Malasinski the Cats will have one of, if not the most potent line in the EPL. They always perform, they’re a joy to watch and they are very good hockey players. Consistency will be the key for them and Höög especially. The more passes he makes the more goals the Cats will be scoring. He loves to play for Swindon and is a real character in the locker room. Every team needs personalities, Jonas is about the biggest personality Swindon could wish for.

All photos used in this article are done so with the permission of Nicky Pearce. Please do not use them without seeking her permission first. 

Okanagan Hockey Academy

On Friday evening saw the Swindon based Okanagan Hockey Academy host their end of season awards night for the 2015-2016 season. Former OHA captain Luc Johnson (now of the MK Lightning) tweeted to say it was sad to see the last players from the OHA inaugural season graduate. It got me thinking, 2 years down the line, what has this academy achieved.

Since it was launched, the OHA has put student development at its top priority. Whilst the on ice performance of their players is a main focus they are also striving to achieve the best education for their students as well. The OHA has faced criticism from some on the pricing structure, but a few years down the line the few who trusted the likes of Steve Nell and then head coach Pete Russell are finally seeing the benefits of it.

OHA1

As with any venture it needed parents to trust the management in the early days. The management didn’t have any graduates to sell to the parents, they had a vision and a committed team of coaches to strive to get the students the best on and off the ice. As we go through the 2016 summer, the last few players who were there on day one have graduated, and as players have developed a huge amount since day one.

It’s not just about playing games in the UK either, they make frequent trips to Europe to play in junior tournaments. Not only will this test them against unknown junior teams from countries where hockey is a bigger sport but it also prepares them for GB tournaments. They’ll be used to the week away abroad, staying in the hotel, playing games and training on the same day. It’s all the little things that will ensure they’re in good stead for the future.

Selling the OHA to prospective parents becomes easier now for Steve Nell and current head coach Ryan Aldridge. You can now show prospective families that they’ve had players qualify and go to the EPL, go to the USA in junior leagues as well as go to elite junior systems in Finland. Credit must be given to the staff who work at the OHA, they are the people who have got these kids where they are today.

Pete Russell was the perfect coach to launch this programme, his work with junior players in the UK is second to none and he had a massive impact on the likes of Glenn Billing, Michael Stratford and Toms Rutkis who all find themselves in EPL rosters today.

IMG_3696

This last season Ryan Aldridge has taken over the reigns and has continued to build upon the foundations laid in the early days.Mac Howlett has moved to Finland, another 3 have graduated and joined the EPL in Ollie Stone, Ben Nethersell and Kyle Smith. Next season I’m sure the OHA will take another step forward.

I’ve had the pleasure to see a few of their games this season and it is clear to see what a talented team the OHA are. It’s not individual players winning them games, it’s a team effort. It’s a group of players who build up a special bond and it’s something that will be key to the students in how the grow as adults. It’s these kinds of things that make it worthwhile.

For now, congratulations to every member of OHA who has graduated, be it this year or in the years gone by. To have this academy in Swindon is something we can all be proud of. To have this system in the UK is going to be key for the way we develop juniors for the national time in the future. No doubt about it, this is the best junior system in the UK and it keeps getting stronger and stronger, roll on 2016-2017.

The first photo used in this article are done so with the permission of Nicky Pearce. Please do not use them without seeking her permission first.

Carlo Finucci: A Thank You

Today it was announced by the Wildcats that Carlo Finucci would not be returning to the Wildcats for the 16-17 EPL season. Carlo originally joined the Cats in October as a replacement for the early departure of Miroslav Zalesak. Carlo immediately made an impact in Swindon and was undoubtedly a fan favourite with the Cats faithful.

It’s easy to see what Carlo brought to the table. He skated hard, he showed phenomenal skill and was a real crowd pleaser. Not many players have been with the Cats for such a small amount of time and made such a big impact. Carlo 2In 41 games Carlo posted 49 points (30 goals and 19 assists). Carlo was only one of 3 players to post more than 25 goals over the season (Nell & Malasinski being the other two). So it with great shock and sadness we know we won’t be seeing Carlo on the ice in Swindon next season.

Carlo was an energetic player who played the game because he loves it. He played the game the right way and at times was completely unplayable at EPL level. When he needed to step up and score a goal he did, he was a proper role model to the players of tomorrow and really bought into the Swindon Wildcats in ways other imports never did.

The decision to release him wouldn’t have been an easy one to make for the Swindon management. They would have known how much he wanted to be in Swindon next season and how much the fan base wanted him back for the forthcoming EPL campaign. That said, the team has to be seen to develop each summer. We can’t stand still and get overtaken like Telford did last season. If Aaron feels this is one area he could change his game plan slightly then so be it. Aaron is the coach and the buck will stop with him.

Tomorrow the Cats will be announcing a new import (whether this proves to be the replacement for Carlo or not remains to be seen) but whoever comes in to replace Carlo will have massive shoes to fill. Upon the announcement that Carlo wouldn’t be back, I got in touch with Carlo (now back in Canada) and asked him if he had any words he’d like to say to the Cats fans. Below is what he told me:

It was a shock and difficult to get the news that the Nell’s did not want to bring me back for another season in Swindon. I felt very at home in Swindon and loved playing in front of those amazing Wildcat fans, I really felt the love and I am going to miss that! I want to wish the best of luck to all my former teCarlo 4ammates and staff, time to see what the future has in store!’

These lines sum up what a team guy Carlo was, he really took it upon himself to buy into the ethos of the Wildcats and that is why his departure is such a blow to the fanbase. I think I speak on behalf of all Cats fans when I wish Carlo the best of luck in the future, and to thank him for all his efforts in a Cats jersey last season. It was a real pleasure watching him play as well as speaking to him over the course of the season. A good hockey player and even better guy who will be an asset to wherever he ends up.

Will the decision to let him go come back and cost us? Time will tell. Tomorrow we may find out who has replaced him but for now, one final time…. well you guys all know the chant goes.

Thanks for the memories #40.

All photos used in this article are done so with the permission of Nicky Pearce. Please do not use them without seeking her permission first.