By GLENN HIBDON
GTR Sports Writer
With four signees already announced for the 2012-13 season and at least 10 more waiting to be revealed, Tulsa Oilers coach Bruce Ramsay said his team should be much improved when the puck drops on the Central Hockey League season in October.
Definitely on board are eight-year veteran goalie Larry Sterling and all-star forward Ryan Menei. Defensemen Sean Erickson and Gio Flamminio have signed contracts with many more familiar names scheduled to be released.
“We don’t want to announce them all at once. We want to spread the press releases around,’’ said Ramsay, entering his fourth year at the helm. “We’ve improved in a lot of areas, goal tending for one, and our defense will be improved from last year.’’
Sterling, 29, played for Dayton in the last season, finishing third in goals against average at .922. Ian Keserich is expected to return from the 2011-12 team, giving the Oilers experience between the pipes.
“I coached against Larry Sterling for a number of years and he‘s a competitor who wants to win as much as anybody,’’ Ramsay says. “He had a great year last year and I think he was the best player in Dayton. He’s very aggressive and takes up a lot of net. He has great quickness and handles the puck well.’’
Ramsay says he’s “excited’’ to have Sterling teaming with Keserich. He’s also gleeful about the arrival of Menei, a 25-year-old six-year veteran who toiled for Cortina SG of Italy’s Serie A league last season. The 5-foot-11, 203-pound forward was a finalist for the award in 2010-11, scoring 39 goals with 48 assists.
“Menei is an elite scorer,’’ says Ramsay. “To be successful you’ve go to have players like that, guys who are capable of scoring 90 points. He played at a very high level in Italy against lot of other great North American players. He sees the ice well and skates really well. He‘s always at the right place at the right time.’’
Menei is hoped to be a scorer in the mode of Jack Combs or Chad Costello two years ago. Dylan Clarke, who tied with Mike Ullrich last season with a team-leading 64 points, is not expected to return. Ramsay says Ullrich might come back, but it will “take a little time.’’ Ryan Cramer, another front line scorer, is in the midst of contract negotiations.
“Last year we didn’t have any true scorers,’’ Ramsay says. “We’re looking to pump up our offense for sure. Defensively, Tyler Fleck should come back, and we’ve signed some others, so we might be almost set back there.’’
Ramsay says veteran forward Marty Standish is “still up in the air” and he expects the diminutive forward to make his decision later in the summer. Veteran forward Michel Beausoleil has expressed interest in playing one more season and he’s also in contract negotiations, along with forward Gary Steffes.
“Right now, I believe he will be coming to training camp and be on the ice with the Tulsa Oilers,’’ Ramsay says of Beausoleil. “Gord Bell wants to play again, and we will see how everything goes in camp with his legs. We’re also talking with (forwards) Troy Ofukany and Drew Fisher.’’
Dave Solway and Jeff Terminesi won’t return for another year. Solway was traded to Rapid City in a future consideratons deal and Terminesi has signed in Europe.
“We’ve still got some holes to fill,’’ says Ramsay. “But we’ve got four or five months to fill them. We will definitely be a team competing for a chance to get a championship.’’