YESTERDAY was deadline day in ice hockey but, while their Elite League rivals were tweaking their squads, Newcastle Vipers were left with their faces pressed up against the transfer window.
The stricken club were barred from entering the market, and will have to make do with players borrowed from supposedly poor relations.
Player-coach Danny Stewart thinks poor gates hampered their chances of lifting the transfer embargo and admits it has left players asked to do jobs they are not up to.
The Vipers are expected to announce two arrivals on two-way contracts, but Stewart admits it has made an unlikely play-off push even more difficult.
“We weren’t able to convince them to let us bring anyone in,” said the Canadian. “The league didn’t want us to increase too much of our budget.
“It may have been possible if the crowds had increased. But I don’t think they saw any reason to add to the budget.
“I’m not going to blame the league. Those problems lie with past ownerships. It’s things that have gradually happened over the past two or three years.
“A lot of the problems were self-inflicted and me and Jaimie (Longmuir, the managing director) have borne the brunt of it. It’s frustrating for myself and the players. The amount of guys we’re playing with is not ideal.
“We had a tough night on Sunday (when Nottingham Panthers turned a 4-3 first-leg Challenge Cup semi-final deficit into an 18-4 victory) and people might ask what happened, but people should be thinking that beating them on Wednesday was an absolute miracle.
“To think we can beat teams with a full roster of imports and some quality Brits to back that up, it’s a tough call.
“Guys are having to play more of a role than they’re capable of.”
Adam Reynolds, Dan Harris, Andy Finn, Matt Sellars, Daniel Pye and Callum Davies are fleshing out a thin squad of just 13 others. But their two-way contracts mean English National League sides Whitley Warriors (in Reynolds and Harris’ case) and Northern Stars have first call on them. Or in some cases second.
“Those kids are not always available,” Stewart stressed. “A lot of them work as well so they have other priorities.”
Their cup hopes over, Newcastle are nine points behind Dundee Stars in the race for the eighth and final play-off place.
“We’ve got four games against Dundee and we’d have to win all those games,” Stewart reasoned.
“We’re not going to count the season out, we’ll battle through to the end. It will be very tough but those guys will die trying.”