CORNER BROOK Ross Coates is building the Western Royals with a defence-first mentality so he has struck a deal with three pieces of the puzzle for the 2013-14 season.
Coates, president of the Royals, confirmed Monday that Bryan Gillis has been signed to an import card to provide quality puckstopping, while defensive juggernauts Nathan Saunders and Brad Wood will anchor the defence corps with hopes of making the Royals a much better team in their own end of the rink.
The Royals are coming off a 2012-13 season that saw them finish third overall with a 13-11 record, but the post-season run was cut short when the Clarenville Caribous disposed of the Royals in five games in a best-of-seven semifinal affair. The Royals managed to score 108 goals in 24 regular season games, but the bad news is the team allowed 115 goals by opposing teams.
Coates hopes that changes with some tough defenders in their own end back wearing the Royals crest.
‚ÄúThey are as good a defenceman as anyone in this league those two guys together,‚ÄĚ Coates said of the signings, noting Gillis is a quality puckstopper the team is only too glad to have back in the fold again.
Coates was allowed to have four imports signed last season, but he‚Äôs still waiting word on the number for this season before he forges ahead with his player recruitment efforts. According to Coates, representatives of the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League franchises asked Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador to increase the number of imports afforded each team from four to five earlier this year, but HNL turned down the request. HNL felt it was better to maintain the status quo when it comes to the number of imports, according to Coates, but the governing body for senior hockey in the province did agree to allow teams to use an extra import card solely for goaltenders when concern was expressed about the troubles associated with finding quality puckstoppers. Coates said the league has appealed the decision and is waiting for a ruling on the matter.
Coates plans on keeping an eye out for any type of player he feels could help the team, but he‚Äôs not overly concerned about finding a big forward with offensive punch.
Actually, he likes the core of skilled forwards in the mix now.
‚ÄúYou can have all the forwards you want if the puck isn‚Äôt getting up to them they are of no value,‚ÄĚ he said.
Saunders, who had his season cut short when he was injured in a crash in Prince Edward Island last winter, and Woods, a guy known for logging lots of minutes and sacrificing his body with blocked shots, are the type of defenders Coates believes will keep things under wraps in their own end of the rink and still move the puck efficiently to the forwards.
‚ÄúI‚Äąthink the forwards we got can do a lot of damage if you got the puck up to them,‚ÄĚ‚Äąhe said.
Coates has also brought a familiar face back to the west coast via the trade route. Crafty forward Chris Peach, a seasoned veteran who once played for the Deer Lake Red Wings, has been acquired from the Mount Pearl Blades in exchange for the rights to Daniel Cadigan of St. John‚Äôs‚ÄĒ‚Äąobtained by the Royals in the draft last season.
Coates felt it made sense to trade Cadigan‚Äôs rights once the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer in St. John‚Äôs made it known he wouldn‚Äôt be interested in playing on the west coast unless he ended up being transferred. He‚Äôs stationed in St. John‚Äôs so he wasn‚Äôt willing to travel on weekends to play for the Royals.
‚ÄúSo we traded the rights of a player who wasn‚Äôt going to play for us for a player who wanted to play for us,‚ÄĚ he said.
Coates said Peach is among a number of older players who still have a lot left in the tank.
‚ÄúHe can put up some points,‚ÄĚ he said, noting Peach had 17 points in 24 games last season with the Cataracts.
Coates is hoping to have a mini-camp for potential players at the end of October. The regular season is expected to begin early November.