The Newcastle Northstars will chase a third consecutive Australian Ice Hockey League title with a new array of imports, but coach Andrew Petrie says his local players again will hold the key to the club’s fortunes.
Last year’s league leading scorer, Connor McLaughlin, and fellow imports Scott Swiston and Brandon Greenside have left the club. In come Canadians Matt Marantz, Steve Kuhn and Felix-Antoine Poulin and American Joe Harcharik.
The club has also lost goaltender Dayne Davis but recruited Australian representative Charlie Smart from Sydney Ice Dogs to compete with fellow youngster Nick Mizen for a starting role.
Newcastle, who have changed their nickname from North Stars to Northstars, had five players in the Australian Mighty Roos squad that won silver in the Division II Group A world titles this month in Romania.
Captain Bert Malloy, Mat Lindsay, Beau Taylor, Pat Nadin and Smart were in the squad. John Kennedy Jr, who became an Australian citizen in January, was picked but had family commitments.
The Northstars have won six Goodall Cups in 14 seasons, a consistency which suggests their success has as much to do with their cast of Australian players as the star qualities of their imports.
“That’s precisely what the key to the success is,” Petrie said. “You want to build a working culture of success and camaraderie, and then complement that with the right set of imports.
“Seeing so many of them get called up to the national team is really gratifying.”
Marantz, a six-foot criminology graduate from Calgary, is a centre who played five years with the University of Western Ontario Mustangs and a close friend of Kuhn’s.
Kuhn played last season with Neuilly-sur-Marne Bisons in the French second tier with former Northstars MVP Geordie Wudrick.
Poulin is a goal-scoring defenceman who has two seasons of pro hockey behind him, in the East Coast Hockey League with Alaska Aces and in the UK’s Elite Ice Hockey League with Dundee Stars. He led the EIHL in goals for all defencemen with 17 and had 32 assists.
“Felix has good size, great mobility and vision and has an elite-level shot,” Petrie told the AIHL website.
“He's got a natural flair for jumping up into the offence.”
Harcharik, who will miss this weekend’s season-opening double-header in Adelaide and Perth, was sixth on the AIHL offensive charts when he played with the Sydney Bears in 2015.
The Northstars will launch their season with a Skate with the Champions evening on Wednesday from 6 to 8pm at Hunter Ice Skating Stadium. Stadium entry and skate hire will be free.