Manchester Phoenix have made two key additions to the 2013-14 roster after inking deals for starting goalie Stephen Fone and backup Jorge El-Hage.
In five years with the Phoenix, 26-year-old Fone has established himself as one of the top goalies in the English Premier League and has more than 200 games under his belt.
The Rotherham lad backstopped the team to the league championship in 2010-11 and recovered from a serious injury last season in time to help Phoenix claim their first-ever playoff title.
“Last season was frustrating with the injury but it was great to come back and take part in the playoffs,” Fone said.
“It was a fantastic feeling winning the trophy and hopefully I can steer clear of injuries next season and pick up more silverware.”
Player-coach Tony Hand commented: “Stephen is one of the best netminders in the league and we missed him during his long layoff. It was great to see him on top form in the playoffs and it is very good to have him back on board.”
El-Hage, 19, went through a baptism of fire when he stepped in during Fone’s absence for 17 games. The local boy, who is a product of Phoenix’s youth system, put in back-to-back Man of the Match performances during his first weekend between the pipes but, like any young player, also faced a steep learning curve and Phoenix brought in Andrew Jaszczyk to share goaltending duties towards the end of the season.
But Hand has always backed El-Hage’s ability and attitude, and the boss is pleased to see him return for the new campaign.
“Jorge stepped in at a difficult time in the season and did a good job. He will have learned a lot and grown in confidence with the ice time. It is an apprenticeship and a huge learning curve. I am hoping to get Jorge more ice time this season,” he said.
El-Hage told Phoenix TV: “It was a fantastic experience playing in these games and I loved every minute of it. Stephen helps me in training and I am learning all the time. The playoff win was an experience I will never forget and hope to win more with the team.”
By Andy Jowett