Devils plan to stick around in top flight

New signing Peter Chrenko. Picture: Paul Shergold
New signing Peter Chrenko. Picture: Paul Shergold
Richard Facey scores for Solent Devils against Haringey Huskies. Picture: Neil Marshall (171743-729)

IN PICTURES: Solent Devils 7 Haringey Huskies 2

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After winning a stay of execution off the ice earlier this summer Solent & Gosport Devils are on a clear mission to prove their class on it.

They start the new season tomorrow against Cardiff Devils at Gosport Ice Rink (6.30pm).

It’s the first chance for the club to show they belong in National League south division one after finishing bottom last season.

Relegation back to division two was on the cards until they put in an appeal and rival teams voted to save them.

Manager Paul Fitzpatrick knows the team now have to shine on the ice to make the most of the reprieve.

He said: ‘It will be good to get under way tomorrow.

‘We’ve been granted the stay of execution – now we have to prove ourselves worthy of it.

‘There will be no leniency at the end of this season.

‘We are coming back a stronger outfit than we finished last season.

‘There is a great buzz around the club.’

Fitzpatrick has been busy recruiting through the summer.

The Devils managed to finance a deal to land Slovakian forward Peter Chrenko.

They also tempted last season’s top scorer Kent Johnson out of retirement.

In another coup, Alex Murray has returned from across the Solent.

The experienced utility man was plying his trade at the Isle of Wight Raiders.

But he’s made the move, along with Steve Gossett who has also swapped Raiders for Gosport.

Those additions ensure there is a clear feel-good factor around.

Fitzpatrick joked that Chrenko will be under pressure to impress after sealing his big-money move.

He said: ‘Peter has been at Gosport in the recreational summer league.

‘Now he’s joined us and he certainly knows where the goal is.

‘We had to pay £800 as he is registered under Slovakian hockey and has to be registered over here.

‘He’s our big summer signing. They talk about Gareth Bale but we’ve paid £800 for Peter! He will be a good strong addition to the team.

‘We have coaxed Kent Johnson back out of retirement and Jamie Fitzpatrick hasn’t been deployed by the navy yet so we have him back.

‘That is two players we thought we had lost at the end of last season.

‘Alex Murray is an ex-Gosport junior. He went over to the Raiders about five years ago and is a very experienced player.

‘It’s good to get him. He’s an excellent player.

‘We’ve signed Steve Gossett who is a hard hitting forward and we’ve got some young lads in from Guildford, so we have a good mix.’

It’s a battle of the Devils tomorrow and the south-coast side, coached by Will Francis, hope a vociferous crowd can give them the edge.

There is a fierce rivalry after some hard-hitting encounters last season.

Fitzpatrick said: ‘We have a good rivalry with Cardiff.

‘They have been a strong side for a number of years.

‘It will be their second game as they are playing Milton Keynes tonight.

‘We have the advantage of playing on home ice.

‘There is always a good crowd in at Gosport – it’s an intimidating place for teams to come to.

‘We held our own at home last season.

‘And we have to do the same again to make sure we keep away from that bottom spot.’

Off the ice, the Devils have managed to pull in some good sponsorship deals.

Now it is over to the players to impress on the ice and show they are here to stay in the top flight.