As most people within the ice hockey community would be aware, Newcastle have been able to produce great hockey teams since the introduction of the AIHL. Constantly coming up with results every season, 4 time Goodall Cup champions & being able to attract quality imports, is a credit to the way the hockey club has been managed for just over a decade.
The 2012 season is already shaping up as another successful period for the North Stars, sitting on top of the Bauer Conference heading into the Queens birthday break & with no game having been scheduled for the weekend just gone. It has given the Newcastle roster two weeks of no hockey, an early freshen up before they kick things off again at home Sunday week against the Sydney Bears.
With the 3 top points scorers in the league, it's little wonder they hold one of the best records at this early stage of the 2012 season. 9 games played for 6 wins & 3 losses is just what Garry Dore was after, amongst those 3 top scorers is the ever reliable Brian Bales. The left shooting winger has once again started another AIHL season in fine form, 12 goals 14 assists for a total of 26 points. Bales has been a constant performer for the North Stars over the past two seasons & it looks as though he is not planning on slowing down anytime soon, he has become a pivotal piece of the whole Newcastle setup. We all know that Bales has been one of the stand out imports over the past two seasons, but with 2.9 ppg already after just the 9 games played, he looks as though he might be hitting the form which he showed throughout 2010.
But with the talk of imports & their continued success down under, perhaps the most surprising & encouraging change for the North Stars is the production of Beau Taylor, leading the league in points after only 9 games is somewhat foreign land for North Stars forward. With regular season production having never been higher than 18 points, it's a dream start for the 21 year old. Two hat tricks within that 9 game period shows exactly how prolific Taylor can be in the AIHL, he is red hot right now, it's the type of form all clubs around the country strive for from their local players. Improvement from local talents is what can decide champions from runners up, every one at Newcastle will be crossing their fingers that the lad from the Central Coast can continue this rich vein of form.
First year signing Jeremy Boyer has also been a revelation, slotting into the dressing room nicely & getting maximum results. The Sakatoon native has been able to transition to the AIHL perfectly, the former Central Hockey League player from the Quad City Mallards has been able to feed off the two inform North Stars forwards finishing with 25 points after 9 games. The experience of playing in quality hockey leagues in North America will no doubt prove vital not only on the ice, but also in the dressing room & on the training track this season.
Along with the impressive offensive weapons Newcastle have, they have also been able to add some solid defensive cover. Import Robbie Lawrance has been terrific since coming into the AIHL, along with Robert Starke things seem to be connecting across all areas of the Newcastle roster. Both will be the most important two defenders for Newcastle this season, Starke's experience in the AIHL will become a factor as the season progresses, while the offensive ability of Lawrance will also prove most important in 2012. A sign of Lawrance's offensive prowess has already been highlighted, with plenty of assists being tallied up at this early stage of the season.
For Newcastle, it's a case of going from strength to strength. The recent inclusions of Dave Upton (formerly of the Gold Coast Blue Tongues), imports Kevin Day & Tuomas Takkula will add a massive amount of depth to this Goodall Cup challenging squad. Upton looks to be the pick of the bunch, such an important cog in the Blue Tongues teams over the past 4 seasons, his consistency will be vitally important down the stretch of a grueling season.
With the departure of the ever reliable Peter Cartwright it was always going to be interesting to see what Newcastle were able to do roster wise, the additions of some key individuals recently have put rest to any worries North Stars fans might have had. An additional defender could be an area of improvement, but i still think they seem to have a pretty good mix to make another assault on the post season.
By Andrew Macdougall