Quite a quartet for Tigers NIHL squad

The Tigers NIHL have signed Dan Croft, Karol Jets, James Smith and Macaculay Heywood, as they prepare for a testing first season in the Moralee Conference.

Head Coach Tom Watkins is likely to retain the majority of last year’s promotion-winning squad, despite a vast step-up in the quality of their opponents.

Watkins, who this week also secured the services of local forward Adam Taylor, is confident next season will see the Tigers NIHL hold their own at the higher level.

And he believes his latest quartet of signings will prove to be a major part of that strategy.

Watkins said: “These four guys are an excellent group of players and they all bring something different to the table.

“They will form part of what I expect to be an excellent line for us. I’m sure they will also create great partnerships with surrounding players.

“Three of the guys are very offensively minded, while Dan is very much a heart on the sleeve defenceman. He will do whatever it takes, night in, night out. It is good to have that sort of leadership in your team.”

The joint threat posed Smith, Jets and Heywood is expected to form a key part of Telford’s offensive armoury, following Smith’s remarkable 109-point haul last season.

Watkins added: “James Smith matured a lot during the year and his hockey sense is excellent. He brings a lot to the table every night and is excellent in face-offs, along with powerplays and penalty kills.

“He makes very good decisions on the puck and I expect to see more of that next season.

“Macaulay had a difficult year on a personal level with his illness, but he was very keen to get back on the ice towards the end of the season. Having him back is almost like having a new signing.

“He is very talented and is one of the most skillful puck handlers I know. Macaulay has the ability to create something out of nothing and he couples that with a lot of grit and aggression.

“All the guys see Karol as a local guy, as he’s been here for so long. He has the experience to influence the younger players and help them out. It is a very similar set-up to our EPL team, where the professional guys are passing on their knowledge and support to the youngsters.”

Tigers NIHL General Manager, Mike Washburn, is delighted Watkins has secured the services of Jets, Croft, Smith and Heywood.

He said: “These are absolutely top drawer, first class signings, which clearly demonstrate how we as a club, and the coaching team in particular, go about our business.

“These guys are foundational assets to the NIHL team and given the shape of the roster and some of the names that they will have around them, I’m really looking forward to the forthcoming season.

“It is particularly pleasing to note that a large proportion of last year’s squad will be returning, which underpins the strategy that we have put in place to develop players from our junior system right through to the EPL team. “

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