Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Birbraer is on his way back to Cardiff

Jul 9 2007

by Anthony Woolford, South Wales Echo

CARDIFF Devils have today beaten off competition from ice hockey teams in Germany and Switzerland to sign power forward Max Birbraer.

The Kazakhstan-born winger has committed himself to the Devils for another season and general manager Brent Pope said: “Max was a huge part of our success last season and his commitment to return is an indication we are headed in the right direction.”

“He is an extremely talented player who has game breaking ability.

“Gerad Adams and I believe that Max and Sylvain Deschatelets will strike a good working relationship after playing in San Diego together.

“They have a mutual respect for one another and we expect them to lead from the front and get us a strong start out of the gates this season.”

Birbraer, 26, fired 68 points for the Devils last season including 29 goals.

That was his return in a first season following a serious knee injury and he has pledged to be even better in 2007-08.

“I came to Cardiff last season after a near career-ending knee injury,” said Birbraer.

“Cardiff Devils gave me the chance to play again and I loved it.

“It was always my plan to come back and I could not be happier we have reached agreement.”

Birbraer will be welcomed back at the Devils first game when the Kazakhstan national anthem will ring around their Cardiff Bay rink in September.

Player-coach Adams worked hard to bring Birbraer back and is ecstatic to have got his man. In some ways the powerful winger was more important than last season’s top scorer Mark Smith.

It was Birbraer who played a key role in their partnership – and he is confident a similar understanding will be there with Deschatelets.

The 6ft 2ins Birbraer spent three seasons playing for Albany River Rats in the American HL and was a third round choice for New Jersey Devils in the 2000 NHL entry draft.

Birbraer’s commitment leaves Cardiff with two import slots to fill and coach Adams is still in North America talking to players.

There is now just under two months left before Cardiff Devils start their Elite League season, taking on Coventry, Belfast, Edinburgh, Manchester, Nottingham, Basingstoke, Newcastle, Hull and Sheffield in the chase for glory.

Cardiff won the British Cup last season, while they lost in the play-off championship final against Nottingham Panthers after a penalty shoot-out.

It is unlikely anybody will feel the devastating pain of losing on penalties again.

The rules for deciding the semi-finals and final have been changed. There will be two 10-minute periods of four on four overtime before penalties are used.

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