Through the first two games of the regular season fans of the Newcastle Fighters have more questions than answers as the team searches for their first regulation win. After overcoming Stoney Brook in a back and forth game that saw the Fighters give up their lead on three separate occasions. With two minutes left in the third and trailing by two goals the Fighters miraculously tied the game with two goals in 30 seconds to eventually win the game 6-5 in the shootout off of the hat trick tally by Yassine Hutton.
The following night was much of the same story against the Rocky Mountain House Timberwolves albeit with a less fortunate outcome. Newcastle managed to go up on their opponent on five different occasions, each time pissing the lead down their leg before the Timberwolves put home the first consecutive tallies of the game by one team to win the game 6-5 in overtime.
In speaking with coach ncik after the game he wanted to reiterate that it’s still early in the season and the only freaking out will be from the media trying to find a scoop.
“Look both games played out odd. You don’t often see a team manage to drop a league like it’s apart of their gameplay. We’ll make the on ice adjustments and try to find what works best for our group. There’s a lot of new personnel on the ice level and in the press box for this team, we’re all trying to get a feel for our identity as a team.” After almost a year hiatus, this is Coach ncik’s return behind the bench as well as his right hand man, general manager Wick Schozen. After both games Schozen could be found the Ringside Lounge, the bar atop of the Newcastle Ice Dome, but could not be reached for comment.
Game 1 of season 14 saw fans lay witness to ten players making their debut with the team seven of which are rookies. The Fighters will be skating quite a young team this season. The average age of their starting lineup is only 23. The team’s youth movement is spearheaded by the offseason signings of a pair of 21 year olds, center Raft Bugri and defensemen Louis-Felix Depatie. Ahead of the first game the team announced that Bugri would lead the team as captain this season, with Depatie assisting.
Recently signed goaltender Belel Langlet, 19, started the first two games of his career. The young goaltender had generated a lot of buzz before agreeing to terms with Newcastle at the end of last season. Langlet was coming off a stellar season in the Finnish junior league when Newcastle selected him with the 4th pick of the first round of the SHL draft in season 12. The following season he forwent his final two years of juniors to turn pro, making great strides in his game in the second tier Swedish league. Yet his first two outings left fans questioning Coach ncik’s judgement to announce Langlet as the teams starter before the season over the teams veteran star goaltender Aziz Fraunholz.
“The fans are going to voice their opinion,” ncik stated “we have passionate fans here in Newcastle, it’s not lost on my mind that without them I couldn’t make a living doing what I love and my wife wouldn’t be able to spend all my money on whatever pair of shoes or handbag she swears she needs. It’s just I made the call and I’m going to stick with it, if it doesn’t work out I am going to have to answer to them and ownership come the end of the season. Aziz is going to be in tomorrow against Portland and win or lose, Langlet is going the next night.”
Newcastle’s last management group probably listened to the fans a little too much, an example of which would be fan favorite Kola Lukstins, the 29 year old fighter signed to the unmovable 400k three year deal. An obviously risky deal considering he has a bar stool at the Ringside bronzed in his honor. A bit of spine in the coach and general manager could be a good change of pace for a team that hasn’t reached the GHL in seven season’s and has never finished above 7th in the SHL, being relegated twice in that span.
The Fighters take on Portland tonight in a game where they are hoping to continue to progress towards finding their on ice identity. On The Ropes will continue our coverage right here in the forums until team ownership gets us our own press release.
(Originally posted April 8th in Game Plan Hockey Manager forums)