Building the Herd – Aaron Connolly

#?? Aaron Connolly

Position: Forward

Born: Northfleet, Kent, England

Announced as signed: Basingstoke Gazette, 16th May

 

The steady stream of Thursday signings for the Herd continues with the news in the Gazette this morning. Coach Doug Sheppard today announced the first new signing for the Herd in the form of Great Britain under 20s captain, Aaron Connolly from Slough Jets.

19 year old Connolly was something of a prodigious talent, icing in the ENL whilst 13 years old for Invicta Dynamos scoring 1 goal and 4 assists in 3 games. After changes in the rules regarding juniors playing up, Connolly returned to the junior ranks at Invicta before switching to Chelmsford. 2008/09 saw Connolly excel at both u16 where he scored 85 points in 17 games and u18 where he scored 41 points in 10 games. He made his return to the ENL with the Chieftains the next season going a point per game at 16 years of age with 36 points (21+15) in 36 games.

Connolly split the 2010/11 season between the Chieftains and Slough Jets as part of a two way contract. 39 points in 30 games for the Essex side saw Connolly called to spend more time with the Jets where he was part of the team that won the EPL Cup over the Bison. Connolly has stayed with the Jets full time since, playing 84 times in the last two campaigns for a total of 45 points. He was also alternate captain for the Jets in 2012/13.

At international level, Aaron represented GB at u18 level before playing the last two campaigns at under 20s. He was alternate captain in 2011/12 before being named captain for the Division 1b campaign this season.

 

To get a better idea on the newest member of the Herd from someone who has watched a lot of him, I asked Slough Jets match night DJ and Jets TV presenter Mark Denholm for his thoughts on Aaron; “(Aaron is) a fast developing young talent, plays a never give up game, happy playing the puck or the body and a great addition to the Bison team. He’s worked well with Shep before, the two enjoyed success at Slough and he’s had another year of development since. He had pp and pk responsibility too last year despite his season being cut short by injury which he battled through. He’s someone I’d like to have kept at Slough but wish him all the best for the new challenge.”

Connolly will always be remembered for that night on 3rd March 2012 when Slough beat the Bison 8-3 and the young forward scored a hattrick and 2 assists in a lacklustre performance for the Bison that started badly and got worse. Connolly however is more than one performance and his history shows that. Debuting in the ENL at 13, high scoring seasons at junior and ENL, trophies and big performances in the EPL, scoring goals at international level; there’s a consistent streak of high performance there.

The team is still in its forming stage at the moment, there are only 5 forwards on the roster so where Connolly fits in exactly at the moment but of course his linemates that 5 point night were Joe Greener and Doug Sheppard. Hazarding a guess, Connolly will be used across the second and third lines depending on matchup and chemistry but I’d almost expect that Greener-Connolly-Sheppard line to start the season together unless Bison add a more established British centre to the roster between now and opening day.

Key for Connolly is the fact that (according to him) he’s overcome the shoulder injury that saw him miss time last season. Given that Sheppard is very keen on him and is likely to use him in a variety of situations as Koulikov did last season, the Bison need him to be fit and raring to go. Injuries happen, we all know that but one of the real crimes of last season was how much time both Connolly and Andy Melachrino lost to shoulder/collar bone ailments.

The other question that gets thrown up by this signing is who is Aaron replacing? I don’t feel he’s the like for like replacement for the now retired Greg Owen so you have to think one of the lower end Brits possibly as a replacement but I’ll leave that to your imaginations. We’ve signed one of the hottest up and coming players in British hockey and I’m more than alright with it.

Welcome to the Herd, Aaron. 5 point nights in Basingstoke aren’t mandatory but we won’t say no.

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