The Alaska Aces' extreme roster makeover continued Thursday when they announced the signings of two new defensemen, one a veteran, the other a rookie from Division III college hockey.
The additions of eighth-year pro Brad Cole, 27, and rookie Cameron Harvey, 24, means three-quarters of the players the Aces have announced for the upcoming season -- 12 of 16 -- were not with the club when it won the franchise's third ECHL Kelly Cup last season.
So far, the only returners are defensemen Corey Syvret, wingers Brendan Connolly and Ross Ring-Jarvi, and center Tim Coffman.
The Aces are especially retooling on defense -- veteran Sean Curry, who helped the team seize the Cup in June, on Thursday confirmed his retirement -- and in goal.
Alaska expects to receive reinforcements prior to season's start from its two NHL affiliates, the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild.
Cole, a 6-foot-4, 205-pounder, is one of three veterans the Aces have signed -- the others are wingers Connolly and Justin Johnson. Each ECHL club is permitted a maximum of four veterans, excluding goaltenders. A veteran in the ECHL is any player who enters the season with 260 more regular-season pro games played in qualifying leagues.
Aces coach Rob Murray, entering his fourth season, said Cole, who played last season for ECHL Greenville, does not have an agent and contacted him to see if the Aces were interested.
"We did our homework on him and talked to people about him,'' Murray said. "There was good feedback from a lot of people. Everybody I talked to didn't have anything but good things to say about him.''
Cole last season earned 5-15—20 totals and a plus-11 rating in 67 regular-season games with Greenville, and added six assists and a plus-4 rating in 18 playoff games. His rink resume includes 161 games in the American Hockey League, the circuit one notch above the ECHL and one notch below the NHL.
"He's got some American League upside,'' Murray said. "He played a couple of full years there, so he has that experience, and he gives our D more size.''
Harvey, a 6-foot-1, 190-pounder, played four seasons at UMass-Boston. Last season, he furnished one goal in 22 games -- Murray said Harvey told him he played much of the season with an injured hand. Harvey as a junior posted 4-8—12 totals in 27 games, reaching career highs in all scoring categories.
With his defense from last season gutted, Murray has been searching for blueliners. He said he received reports Harvey is a strong skater. That's beneficial because the Aces play home games at Sullivan Arena on an Olympic-sized rink, which is 15 feet wider than an NHL rink and places a premium on skating ability.
Most college players who enter the ECHL come from Division I programs. Still, the Aces received a boost from a Division III defenseman last season when league coaches voted Brad Richard to the ECHL's All-Rookie Team. That's a high bar for Harvey to reach, of course, but he at least has his skate in the bench door with the defending champs.
"It's not throwing darts,'' Murray said of signing a Division III skater. "I think he'll be OK. For me, it's all about his ability to skate, and he can move.''
Thats a wrap for Curry
Curry, 32, said he figured winning the Cup presented a perfect time to retire after 12 seasons as a pro, the last two with the Aces.
"You can't do much better than that,'' Curry said. "It's been a while. I probably decided a month ago.''
Curry, who played more than 800 games in the AHL, ECHL and abroad, said he plans to do some traveling and will help out with the East High hockey team.