The Bristol Pitbulls 2 have announced the squad for their second, development team that will compete in NIHL South Division 2 for the 2021-22 season.

With the exception of the players who have stepped up to the NIHL1 team and Nathan Darmanin, all players from the 2019-20 NIHL2 season are returning to the team for the upcoming season.

Netminder, Gemma Davies, who celebrated the end of the 2019-20 season with a national team selection, will continue to split her time between the Bristol Pitbulls and the women’s leagues. However, this time her two-way is with the brand new Bristol women’s team, the Bristol Huskies, playing out of the WNIHL Premier League.

The other change for existing players is Jamie Newton stepping up to player/assistant coach. One of only five players to have scored 100 goals for the team, his view of the game will act as a perfect accompaniment to netminder and head coach, Chris Douglas.

Newton said, in his own unique style: “It’s a way of ensuring I can’t fall out with the entire of the coaching team!

“But, it’s more of a return to coaching as I previously ran the Bristol junior club around 2010, which included several players who later became Pitbulls players. Some of whom are in the current two squads. I also spent a few years coaching in Swindon, both for the junior club and as player/coach for the ENL1 side.

“I have known Dougie over numerous years as we have been both opponents and team mates. Not normally simultaneously! I know he has been keen to further his coaching career and be involved with building Bristol as a club. With Richie and Mike making a little more space both metaphorically, and physically, in the dressing room, I am happy to support the team wherever necessary.”

The team will also be strengthened with the addition of six new players to the squad; Dean Baker, Stuart Bates, Sean Osborne, Matt Dibble, Max Slyfield and James Wood.

Defenceman Slyfield has played all of his hockey in Bracknell so far. However, with the closure of their rink he found himself looking elsewhere to continue his hockey career.

Slyfield said: “I started playing hockey at the age of 10 in the Bracknell Hockey Club. I grew with the club, moving to adult hockey with the experimental U20s league before settling with the NIHL2 Bracknell Wasps before the sad demise of Bracknell Ice Rink.

“I’m a player who fiercely protects his team and am excited to develop his hockey skills further with the Pitbulls and at their brand new home. I’m looking forward to bringing commitment, enthusiasm and a passion to learn to my new team and having their support.”

Baker has played against the Bristol Pitbulls, dressing for the Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats from 2014-16. Most recently, he has been playing for the Swindon Sabretooths.

Baker said: “I am extremely happy to have this opportunity to play for the Pitbulls. I have previously played against the Pitbulls which was a great challenge and I’m now looking forward to be apart of the team and the new rink.

“I have been playing recreational for the past 5 years so I’m excited to be playing back at this level.

“It will be an exciting and interesting season and I can’t wait to get stuck in and contribute to the team.”

Stuart Bates brings a wealth of experience to the team’s blueline. Coming up through the Telford system, he played ten seasons for a variety of senior teams in a variety of leagues, including the Tigers in the old English Premier League. He last played in the NIHL in 2015 with the Streatham Redskins.

James Wood brings a similar wealth of experience to the team’s forwards.

Wood said: “I came through the junior system in Swindon in the 90s, having represented the club and South West Conference at all ages. After a five year absence, I returned to the game and played for various teams in London before coaching and playing for the Nationwide Knights, including a championship season in the Southern Conference playoffs.”

Matt Dibble may be a new face, but he’s certainly not a new name. His two brothers, John and Phil, have already represented the club, with John returning to the first team this season. Matt has most recently playing beside Baker with the Swindon Sabretooths.

Dibble said: “I’m going to take the plunge into NIHL 2 hockey. I don’t much like swimming but hockey is fun.

“My brothers have been, and are, playing for the Pitbulls. It’s my turn to see what I can do in the blue kit.

“Thanks to Ian Clark who has done his best for me as coach during my time at Swindon Sabertooths. Patient man, kind man. Had to repeat himself a bit but it all adds character.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to play for the team that my brothers have played for. I hope I do well and make a good impression on the guys.”

Sean Osborne is a familiar face to those Bristol Pitbulls fans with long memories. He played for the second team in from 2011 to 2013 before returning to his hometown Swindon NIHL2 Wildcats. Last season, he was named captain of the Swindon Rec Wildcats.

Osborne said: “I’m looking forward to coming back to Bristol. It will be a new challenge stepping back up from rec hockey with a new rink to do it in.”

The full team list for the 2021-22 season can be found here. The team start their league campaign on 10th October with a road trip to fierce local rivals, the Cardiff Fire.