Good start to Raiders recruitment

PUBLISHED: 17:15 16 May 2020

Raiders captain Aaron Connolly celebrates a goal (pic John Scott)

Raiders captain Aaron Connolly celebrates a goal (pic John Scott)

� Lambpix

Having drawn a line under the 2019/20 season by revealing their award winners, Everyone Active Raiders swiftly announced five signings for the new National League campaign.

Raiders import Erik Piatak hands his jersey to a fan (pic John Scott)Raiders import Erik Piatak hands his jersey to a fan (pic John Scott)

And it was good to see all five names being returnees to the Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre, in a solid start to the team’s recruitment drive for next term.

Captain Aaron Connolly claimed the players’ player of the season and top forward prizes, having led by example on the ice and, as it turned out, in the scoring charts.

The 26-year-old Connolly never takes a shift off and his never-quit attitude and work ethic is commendable. To bring such leadership back to the dressing room will have no doubt been seen as a key move for head coach Sean Easton and assistant Alan Blyth.

Similarly, coaches player of the year Erik Piatak is a great rehire given the impact the Slovakian import made after replacing Marek Malinsky.

Raiders forward Brandon Ayliffe (pic John Scott)Raiders forward Brandon Ayliffe (pic John Scott)

Piatak, 34, is superb on the puck, using his long reach to retain possession, and has great vision for a pass, as evidenced by his team-high haul of assists.

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Among those to benefit from Piatak’s quick eye was Brandon Ayliffe, who made it a hat-trick of supporters’ player of the year awards at the tender age of 21.

That puts former Romford junior Ayliffe alongside only the legendary Rob Stewart as a three-time winner of the fans’ prize and keeping the pacey forward in gold and blue is another box ticked.

Raiders defenceman Jack Cooper (pic John Scott)Raiders defenceman Jack Cooper (pic John Scott)

At the other end of the ice, top defenceman of the year Jack Cooper has agreed to stay in his number 14 jersey having shown his increasing value on the blue line.

The home-grown 23-year-old has made 256 appearances in a Raiders jersey – including a run of 157 successive games – and shows growing maturity and experience in a largely unheralded home.

Completing the fantastic five is goalie Ethan James, who must have been close to winning one of the awards.

The 21-year-old joined from Canadian Junior side Essa Stallions midway through the season and proved a calm head between the posts.

Raiders goalie Ethan James makes a save (pic John Scott)Raiders goalie Ethan James makes a save (pic John Scott)

And with Michael Gray now retired, James gets the chance to nail down the no.1 spot.

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