SWINDON WILDCATS: Smith arrival signals end of Pekkarinen at Cats
5:30am Monday 28th July 2014 in By Michael Reeves, Deputy sports editor
KENTON Smith’s arrival at Swindon Wildcats has signalled the end of Aku Pekkarinen’s time at the Link Centre.
The 34-year-old Canadian has agreed terms to join Ryan Aldridge’s EPL side for the upcoming campaign and completes Cats’ list of imported players, alongside Jan Kostal, Henri Sandvik and Tomasz Malasinski, for the 2014/15 season.
The D-man, who departed Elite League outfit Braehead Clan in order to spend more time with his family in Cardiff, will join Alex Symonds, Steve Whitfield and Shane Moore on Cats blueline, with one further player expected to join them before the opening puck of the season is dropped.
Smith’s departure from the Clan’s is a massive gain for Wildcats and Aldridge acted as quickly as possible to secure his man.
The head coach said: “When a player of Kenton’s quality becomes available, you have to act and he’s a big, big signing for us.
“He comes to the club with a wealth of experience and is a guy that can quarterback our power play.”
The 5’11” player has a wealth of experience in the Western Hockey League, American Hockey League and the East Coast Hockey League with 13 consecutive seasons under his belt before he arrived in Great Britain.
Smith spent one year at Manchester Phoenix in the Elite League before spending a season with Valpellice in the Italian Serie A1, the top league in Italy.
He returned to the Elite League in 2010 where he teamed up with the Cardiff Devils and two of the next three seasons as an alternate captain, before heading north of the boarder to join Clan for the 2013/14 campaign.
Aldridge added: “He is known as a leader both off and on the ice and he will be an exciting player to watch.
“I have spoken to a lot of players and coaches about him and have only ever heard great things and I’m happy with the way the team is shaping up.
“He is a massive leader and is an unbelievable guy to have in the dressing room and I can’t wait for the season now with the squad that we are building.”
Aldridge admits that it was a tough decision not to bring back Finnish D-man Pekkarinen despite holding talks at the end of the previous campaign.
“We spoke at the end of the last season and he wanted me to talk to his agent,” Aldridge said. “We did that but we just couldn’t agree terms.
“It was a tough decision to go looking elsewhere, but we have got a superb signing in Kenton.”