Backchecking :: Canberra Knights

Chris Slauenwhite saves another shot Pic: Mohawk Photos

Chris Slauenwhite saves another shot
Pic: Mohawk Photos

With season 2013 all completed and the AIHL withdrawals already starting, HSN will look at the all of the team’s seasons. Today, Andrew McMurtry is taking a look at the Canberra Knights, the tough season that might just have been what the club needed.

Record: 2 wins – 25 losses – 0 SO Wins – 1 SO Loss This is one of the toughest seasons in recent memory. Although not the worst season on record, it’s not far off it. It may sound like I’m being unfairly negative but there were great issues that lead to this rough year. The suspensions throughout the season, injuries at bad times and way too many penalties during games made this season a difficult one. However there were some bright spots in a dark season, including Chris Slauenwhite, who may not set the world on fire with his stats from this season but showed that he is developing into a great goalkeeper.

Top point scorer: Jordan Braid – 23 games, 14 goals, 12 assists for 26 points (including 7 PP goals)

Top goal scorer: Jordan Braid (14)

Top assists: Mikko Jortikka (13)

The imports: Jordan Braid (23 games, 14 goals, 12 assists for 26 points)

Mikko Jortikka (21 games, 5 goals, 13 assists for 18 points)

Justin Levac (10 games, 8 goals, 9 assists for 17 points)

Maxime Suzzarini (17 games, 3 goals, 5 assists for 8 points)

Ian Fullion (14 games, 0 goals, 2 assists for 2 points)

The output from imports in most teams is expected to be the greatest in the team. While it was true in Canberra as well, they are not the statistics that they would have hoped for from their new imports. A highly placed official once told me that to win a championship, you need imports who can score at least four goals every game. They did it four times out of 28 games this season. That is not enough. Next season, I hope this foundation club can find three or four pure goal scorers. When this happens, the Aussie players will find it easier to attack and be more prolific. This is one area I’d like to see the Knights improve next year.

Best Aussie player: Chris Slauenwhite (23 games, 912 shots against, 780 saves for a save percentage of 85.5% and 6.42 goals per game) Slauenwhite was the bright spot in a tough season. He had the toughest job in the league, facing 79 shots more than the next closest goalkeeper Jon Othuis from the Mustangs. Coming from the Bears last season, Slauenwhite showed that he will be a player to watch. At only 21, I think he will be the keeper to watch next season. Facing so many shots and having to stand on his head in every match will hold him in good stead, especially if the Knights can tighten up their defence.

Best rookie: Matt Taylor (6 games, 2 goals, 1 assist for 3 points) This kid could be one to watch. Scoring points in half his games in a trying season for the Knights is a great start, especially for an 18 year old. Should he go away in the off season and work on his goal scoring further, next year could be his break out season as I can see him getting plenty more ice time to develop further. Injuries cut his season short but keep an eye out for this kid.

Season highlights: The Knights season highlight came in Newcastle on May 12th when the team rallied to defeat the Newcastle North Stars 4-3. Inspired by a Justin Levac hattrick, the North Stars were up 3-1 early in the second, a result that everyone had expected. However 3 goals in six minutes put the Knights in front at the end of the second. Facing 17 shots in the final period, not one got through as the Knights added their second (and what would be their last) win of the season.

Season lowlights: The Knights are currently sitting on 23 straight losses. That included three losses to the Ice that were just embarrassing. The first, on May 25, saw the ice win 9-1 in Melbourne, then on June 15, they went down 12-1 in front of their home crowd, before a 16-0 loss when returning to Melbourne on June 23. In fact, in June the Knights scored only 9 goals for and had 64 scored against. It was a dark time in the season.

Looking forward: Next season should be brighter for the Knights if they can get some strong imports. If they can keep the shots on Slauenwhite down, they should be able fine with him as their long term goalkeeper, assuming he continues to stay at the club (he has played with both Adelaide and the Sydney Bears in the past two seasons). One of the brighter marks is the continuation of the core group of players, including Mark Rummukainen and Jordie Gavin. On top of this, they gave six rookies a go this season, all of which are under 21.

Discipline is a big issue though with three players spending more than 100 minutes in the sin bin. However, the team has a huge and loyal following in Canberra and should they continue to give the next generation of Knights players a go, they should be rewarded with more results going their way in the near future.

This might not be immediate – they might not make their first AIHL finals next season – but they are a club that is rebuilding.

By Andrew McMurtry

Andrew McMurtry

Andrew McMurtry

Andrew was born and raised in Western Sydney and grew up on a diet of Rugby League and Cricket. However, after becoming relatively disenfranchised with both sports in the last year or so, he sought out a new favorite sport after a chance meeting with Sydney Ice Dogs and Australian National Team star Scottie Stephenson. Since then, the love for Ice Hockey has grown strong. He joined the Ice Dogs as a journalist and was getting various arrows published in local papers and at AIHL.com but with TOH, he hopes to cover more than just the matches and let the fans into the lives of the players. Andrew recently completed his Honours degree at the University of Western Sydney in October 2011 and has since found a job in journalism, writing for MediaConnect, although a little too much of his time is spent watching and following the New Jersey Devils in the NHL. In his spare time, he writes for FILMINK magazine as a contributing writer and tries to be the best man he can for his beautiful fiancée. Follow Andrew at his twitter account @andrewmcmurtry as he does his part to help Ice Hockey take it’s rightful place in the upper echelons on Australian sport.
Andrew McMurtry

@AndrewMcMurtry

Husband, sports journo @FairfaxMedia and @AIHL historian. Father to three kids desperate to deprive us of sleep. All views are my own.
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