There will be some changes as Newcastle’s Australian Ice Hockey League champions get their defence started in Adelaide on April 22.
The Northstars, who have returned to their roots and changed their name back to one word, are celebrating 15 years in AIHL.
The single-word name was the original identity of the team that played from Wharf Road in the 1980s.
The Northstars are the AIHL’s most winning club – their unmatched record comprises six Goodall Cups, five minor premiership and 13 final appearances – and are targeting a third successive title this year.
To start their season the club have invited members of the public to Skate with the Champions on April 19 at Hunter Ice Skating Stadium between 6pm and 8pm. Entry is free and during the skate the 2016 AIHL championship banner will be raised to the rafters.
Newcastle coach Andrew Petrie has been on a recruitment drive in the off-season and added four new imports to the squad.
Last year’s league leading scorer, Connor McLaughlin, and fellow imports Scott Swiston and Brandon Greenside have left the club. In come Canadians Matt Marantz, Steve Kuhn and Felix-Antoine Poulin and American Joe Harcharik.
The club has also lost goaltender Dayne Davis but recruited Australian representative Charlie Smart from Sydney Ice Dogs to compete with fellow youngster Nick Mizen for a starting role.
Poulin has two seasons of pro hockey behind him at the ECHL’s Alaska Aces and Scotland’s Dundee Stars, who compete in the EIHL.
At 188-centimetre and 92-kilogram Poulin brings size and skill to the Northstars.
He leads the EIHL in goals for all defencemen with 17. He also has 32 assists for 49 points across 52 games.
Dundee is participating in the EIHL finals and Poulin’s availability will be determined by their success in the EIHL Cup.
“He's been playing in the ECHL in North America and in the EIHL in the UK; two notoriously physical leagues,” Petrie said.
“He handles that type of game with ease, competes hard and keeps his penalty minutes low everywhere he plays.”
Harcharik, who played for Sydney Bears in 2015, returns to the AIHL to play for the Northstars.
The American from Des Moines, Iowa, was looking forward to being back in Australia and was attracted to the Northstars because of their success and “the history they have of winning”.
“They were always one of the toughest teams to play as they are extremely well-coached and I've heard nothing but great things from other imports who have played there before me,” he said.
Meanwhile, five Northstars players just collected the silverwith the Australian squad at the Division 2 Group A World Championships in Romania this month. They were Smart, Northstars captain Bert Malloy, Mathew Lindsay, Beau Taylor and Pat Nadin.
The Northstars open their home season against Sydney Bears on April 29 at Hunter Ice Skating Stadium.