Building the Herd – Dan Weller-Evans

#93 Dan Weller-Evans

Position: Netminder

Born: Basingstoke, Hampshire (though he’s Welsh if you ask him)

Announced as signed:

With the Bison roster firmly taking shape, coach Doug Sheppard announced that the role of backup netminder would be filled by former Bison junior player, Dan Weller-Evans.

Taking time out of revising for his upcoming police exams, the 20 year old backstop spoke to Banners On The Wall;

Firstly Dan, welcome back to Basingstoke

Thank you! I’m excited to be back!

You were already announced as having re-signed for the Isle of Wight, what led to your move to Basingstoke?

Yeah I was getting ready for another year on the island with the Raiders but after speaking to Doug and there being a possibility of playing for the team I supported as a kid, it was a no brainer for me to come home. I had 4 amazing years on the island and I always said I would only ever leave on my own accord to play for the Bison.

You were a Bison junior before having your first crack at senior hockey on the Isle of Wight, what led to that move to Ryde?

I started ice hockey at U18s level so I was a bit of a late starter but Basingstoke was an A League junior club and to be honest I don’t think I was good enough to play there at that time. So I went to play on the island as the starter for their U18 side for a year and it did me the world of good. Playing every minute of every game was something I really needed to catch up. With regards to senior hockey I think I was just in the right place at the right time. I was the U18 goalie and when Toby Cooley retired a week into the season I was able to get the opportunity to back up Matty Colclough. That did me the world of good and I learnt a lot! I never thought I was going to remain in the side for the rest of the season but I worked hard and earned my spot on the team.

What’s Jeremy Cornish like as a coach?

He’s a great coach! He has always been good to me and that includes this move to Basingstoke. He is a coach who will run through a wall for the guys on his team and he expects everyone else to do the same. He builds teams with good chemistry and I think that is a huge factor in why the Raiders are successful and are in the hunt for trophies every year in NIHL1! I certainly had a blast in my 4 seasons with the team. He is someone you can come to with anything at any time and he will do his best to help you. He always gave me feedback on my play and what I could do to improve and he is the same with every guy on the team. We did lots of video sessions and he would constantly pause and tell guys what they are doing well and also what they need to do better. I would recommend anyone to go and play for him if they get the chance because you will improve as a hockey player and I think that shows by the amount of Raiders players that have made the step up to higher leagues. But also, you’ll have a lot of fun!

You’ve long been a watcher and admirer of Dean Skinns, what’s it going to be like playing with him?

Yeah I’ve known Dean since I was 5 years old, we grew up next door to one another! I used to go with his dad Tony to watch every Saturday night growing up. He gave me my first set of goalie equipment, sorted me out with my first roller hockey team and also my first chance in ice hockey. So it’s going to be great to have the chance to play with him and more importantly learn from him. He has ‘been there and done it’ in the EPL and it’s a great opportunity for me to learn from him.

Critics will ask how a 4 season NIHL backup is going to be able to step into an EPL game if Dean gets injured. Do you think you’re prepared for the rigours of playing at that higher level if the moment comes?

This is actually something I have thought a lot about since signing for the team. All I can do is work hard each practise and warm up and maybe game and hopefully prove them wrong. An annoying habit I’ve had in the last couple of seasons is having that couple of bad games that really ruin your stats for the year but it’s something I think I can eliminate from my game by working on my mental toughness. The role of a backup goalie is to win games for the team should something happen to the starter and I did that on the Island, I had 1 loss in all games played whilst I was there and I will be aiming to do the same for the Bison if and when called upon should anything happen to Dean. If I don’t get to play many games then I will be doing my bit on the bench for the guys. I get into the game even if I’m on the bench so I’m sure you will hear me at some point!

Jordan Lawday is going to be a 3rd netminder from the Bison. How would you describe his game?

Jordy is a young up and coming goalie who has come on a long way since I last saw him play. He moves very well and has impressed me in the last few skates we’ve had. Hopefully I can pass on a few things to him throughout the year but he is definitely one to watch for the future if he continues to work hard. He has a couple of years of junior hockey left so he has lots of time.

Any final message for the Bison fans?

It’s an honour to be home and to have the chance to play in front of the Bison fans. You guys are the loudest fans I have ever heard in my experience of playing/watching ice hockey and I know it’ll be the same this year. So I look forward to meeting those of you

who I haven’t met before and to seeing lots of familiar faces too. I hope you’re all having a fantastic summer and I will see you all in September if not before! Lets Go Bison!!

Dan played 2 seasons of under 18 hockey in Basingstoke having transferred from roller hockey before his move to the Isle of Wight for the 2010/11 season. In 16 under 18 contests, Dan posted a 3.40 goals against average and a .921 save percentage as well as making 6 appearances in NIHL 2 for the Wightlink Tigers and 1 on ice appearance for the Raiders.

Since 2011/12, the season a certain Joe Rand arrived on the island, Dan has been the regular backup playing behind Matty Colclough and Liam McAllister respectively. In that time despite seeing minimal ice time, the Raiders have been one of the most competitive sides in NIHL 1 South regularly being in the hunt for all the trophies. The 2013/14 campaign saw Dan make his most on ice appearances in a season with 7 posting a .885 save percentage and a 4.41 GAA.

I suppose I probably need to do a bit of a disclosure thing here; Dan’s a mate of mine. I first met Dan whilst he was playing under 18s and was a steward on match nights during the EIHL days. He was a tall, thin lad with a florescent vest over his gear and would disappear off to put the net back on the moorings after an ice cut. He was a nice lad. When I was told of Toby Cooley’s retirement and Dan’s promotion to the Raiders’ bench, I was pleased for him. It was a chance for him to get some training time at a higher level and he’s been there ever since. I’d chat to Dan when he made rare appearances at Bison games and when I’d make rare appearances at Raiders games, my love of Isle of Wight hockey being no secret here. For a joke, a friend of mine bought me a game worn jersey of Dan’s in the blind auction at the end of a season and I’ve never told him how much she paid as it would embarrass him and probably not in a good way.

My friendship with Dan to one side, the signing of Weller-Evans sends a clear signal; Dean Skinns is going to be playing a lot of minutes again this season. Skinns played like a man possessed all last season, thoroughly silencing all critics and putting himself in the upper echelon of EPL netminders. Sheppard has no reason to deviate from this model and with Connor Standing now being announced as the new starting netminder for the Solent Devils was not going to be looking for a 1a/1b netminding scenario but a clear number 1 and a clear number 2.

There are obvious questions with the signing of a backup who has seen minimal game time from a league below. Weller-Evans has started few games though he has one 60 minute shutout to his credit, a cup away game at Streatham. He has seen more ice time at senior hockey than Standing albeit at a lower level. Weller-Evans likely won’t push Skinns in terms of a fear of stealing the starting role like Skinns did from Annetts and Skinns had stolen from him by Colclough in recent memory but what he does offer is a capable option should the need arise in a game situation. This is not a netminder going in cold to facing senior players of quality.

The analyst in me sees this signing for what it is; it’s the backup who will hopefully get a chance at a bit of ice time over the season.

The Anthony Russell sitting in front of his computer writing this is just pleased that the young man who grew up a Bison fan gets to put on that jersey not as a fan, not as a junior but as a Bison.

Welcome home, Splinter and well done. Grant King will shortly be your new best friend.

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