ICE HOCKEY: A MAJOR shift in squad members can be expected at the Skydome next season after Coventry Blaze head coach Danny Stewart announced the departure of eight players following the club’s miserable 2016/17 campaign.
Blaze finished ninth in last year’s Elite Ice Hockey League, meaning the club failed to reach the end of season playoffs for the first time in its history.
Netminder Brian Stewart, popular defenceman Josh Godfrey, British forward Ben Davies, former Kelly Cup winner Matt Marquardt, defencemen Marc Cantin and Shawn Boutin and cousins Barry Almeida and TJ Syner will all be missing next season.
After joining the Blaze in 2014, Brian Stewart played a crucial role in the club winning the Elite League Playoff Championship in his first season with the Skydome outfit.
In the same year, Stewart was named Elite League goalie of the year.
Following the playoff success, the Canadian signed a two-year extension to his contract which included the opportunity to study for an MBA at Coventry University.
Stewart – who in his three years was named ‘Player of the Year’ twice and had over 75 per cent success rate in shoot-outs – led Blaze to a second playoff final at the end of the 2015/16 season, this time losing out to the Nottingham Panthers.
Despite the disappointment of missing the playoffs, Stewart set a record for most Man of the Match performances on home ice in a single season during his third and final campaign with Blaze.
He said: “Three great years and memories to last a lifetime.
“Thank you to all the fans, management, staff and teammates.
“I’ll never forget my time in Coventry.”
Meanwhile Canadian defenceman Josh Godfrey has also confirmed his exit from the club after meeting with the team.
Godfrey – known as a prolific powerplay goalscorer – contributed more than 40 points in his debut season, helping Blaze reach the playoff final.
The 29-year-old studied for an MBA at Coventry University during his time in the Midlands.
He said on Twitter: “After meeting with the team my contract will not be renewed next season.
“I wish the club the best of luck in the future. I’d like to thank the coaches, management and ownership for the opportunity in Coventry.”
Last month it was also confirmed Jim Jorgensen would not be returning to the Skydome while British forward Russell Cowley announced his retirement from the sport.