The Newcastle Northstars have imported reinforcements to help rescue their Australian Ice Hockey League title defence.
Canadian Kale Kerbashian arrived on Friday morning and will suit up for the Northstars against last-placed Melbourne Mustangs at Hunter Ice Skating Stadium on Saturday.
Kerbashian has scored 148 points in 192 games in the East Coast Hockey League, the third tier of American hockey, and played four times for second-tier American Hockey League franchise Connecticut Whale in 2011.
The 27-year-old, who is on his first visit to Australia, told the Herald that he had found out about the Northstars opportunity on Sunday.
“It sounds like the next two games will be very important, so they tried to get me out here as fast as they could, and hopefully I can make a difference before it’s too late,” he said.
Newcastle coach Andrew Petrie said Kerbashian would bring attacking punch to a team who had struggled to score this year and won only four games, two of them in overtime, in 12 outings.
“Kale’s a very high-level guy,” Petrie said.
“I’m expecting him to bring a bit of excitement and generate some offence over and above what we’ve been able to create to this point.”
Petrie said, without elaborating, that injuries to “really key personnel” had hampered the two-time defending champions’ season.
“We’re getting everything we expected defensively. We’re getting the goal-tending performances we expected. What we’re not doing is posting the number of goals we were hoping for on a regular basis.
“We need to address that within our existing group, but we’re asking guys to perform at their highest level when they’re not fully fit. That’s why Kale’s here.
“He comes very highly recommended by Brandon Wong, who was here last year.
“He’ll be here for the foreseeable future. How finite that is will depend on a number of factors.”
He said Saturday’s game marked a “turning point” for his players, who had literally pressed a “reset” button at training on Tuesday.
“We drew a line in the sand. We had a big red button at practice that everybody pushed, and that’s reset. That’s the catchphrase we’re using. We’ve reset it as of Tuesday this week, 6th of June. As far as we’re concerned the rest of our season starts as of Tuesday.”
Newcastle, who are second last on the ladder, have played 12 games and already taken two Adelaide-Perth road trips. Third-placed Melbourne Ice have played only five and no other club has played more than 10.
“We’re not ones for making excuses, but we’ve travelled about 17,500 kilometres, we’ve played 12 games,” Petrie said.
“Some of our traditional rivals have played five games and haven’t left their own rink. You can talk about it all you like, but it’s real. It’s certainly had an impact and a cumulative effect.
“We only play four times in June, which is a bit of a breather for us. We want to get through the next six games with as much success as possible.”
Northstars general manager Garry Dore said Kerbashian, fellow Canadian Felix Poulin and American Joe Harcharik were expected to play in Wednesday’s Team USA-Team Canada exhibition game at Warners Bay.