By Matthew Burgess
New Cardiff Devils head coach Pete Russell has revealed he will look to build his roster around the team’s ‘Brit-core’ as the club bid to bounce back from a disappointing 2022/23 campaign.
Russell was appointed as the Devils’ third coach in three years on Friday, signing a two-year deal, just a week after successfully leading Team GB back to the top tier of the IIHF World Championships.
The 48-year-old will retain his Team GB role, but will now work with some of those GB stars at club level as he looks to re-establish the Devils as a leading Elite League outfit.
“I’m delighted to be here, I’m going to give everything,” said Russell.
“I’m sure if there’s patience, we’re going to play a different type of hockey – I say that at every club I go to, but it works in the end.
“We want to create an identity that when every team comes to play the Cardiff Devils, they’re going to know it’s going to be uncomfortable.”
The Devils struggled to make their mark last season as inconsistent performances and a misfiring power play hampered their efforts of capturing silverware.
The side finished fourth in the Elite League last season, nine points behind champions Belfast Giants, before being comprehensively beaten by the same Giants side in the Play-Off final.
It remains unclear as to whether the Devils will keep faith with last season’s roster or if the team will undergo a major summer rebuild. However, Russell has revealed the team’s British core will retain a key role moving forward.
“We still have some great players here on multi-year deals, we’ve got a really good Brit-pack and we’re fortunate with that,” he explained.
“You think about [Ben] Bowns, [Mark] Richardson, [Sam] Duggan, [Josh] Waller is exciting – he’s really young and you still have Ben Davies and [Josh] Batch.
“There’s a real core here of Brits and we want to add to that and make that a great base for the culture.
“I’d like to try and get a little bit younger if we can, but it’s not easy to attract those players to the UK right now – they all want to go to mainland Europe.
“But it’s a long summer. People have to be patient, we want to try and put a team together that can play hard every night and play fast.”
Russell has spent the last four seasons coaching in Germany, first with EHC Freiburg for two seasons before moving to Ravensburg for the 2021/22 season.
After losing in the Play-Off finals that year, the Augsburger Panthers came calling from the DEL, Germany’s top league and one of the best leagues in Europe.
His stint in Augsburger ended last December, but Ravensburg asked him to come back for the remainder of the season.
He will be joined on the Devils bench by Euan King, who worked with the Devils last season.
King, who also works as goaltending coach for Team GB, has been appointed as full-time video/goaltending coach as part of the new coaching team and a further appointment is also expected.
Meanwhile, current and former Devils players will take to the ice later this month as Josh Batch celebrates his 10 years’ service with a testimonial game on Saturday 27th May.
“Euan is a great person, and we work extremely well together… He has been a huge asset to the National team, and I am very pleased to have him as part of the coaching staff here in Cardiff.”
– Devils Head Coach Pete Russell pic.twitter.com/qyc2Or7xYr
— Cardiff Devils (@cardiffdevils) May 12, 2023
Former Devils Sean Bentivoglio, Joey Haddad, Andrew Hotham, Mac Faulkner, Chris Blight, Tyson Marsh and Brent Walton are all set to feature with tickets for the game still available.
Tickets have also now been made available for Batch’s testimonial dinner which is being hosted at St Peter’s Hall on Friday 26th May.