Steve Thornton has completed his 5 man defensive unit with the signing of Mike Burgoyne from the Oklahoma City Blazers and former Michigan State University star Tyler Howells.
Howells joins the Giants from the Helibronn Falcons of the German Bundesliga where he finished his first year of professional hockey after starting the season with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the East Coast Hockey League where he racked up 7 goals and 16 assists in 30 games. Prior to that, Howells starred for the Michigan State Spartans for four seasons where he won the CCHA League Championship in his third year and the National Championship during his final season at University. He was an Assistant Captain for the National Championship team and was selected to both the NCAA Regional and NCAA National “All-Tournament” Teams.
Howells was runner-up in the voting for the CCHA’s Best Offensive Defenceman in his third season leading all Spartan Defencemen with 34 points including 10 goals in 45 games. As a Senior (4th Year) Howell was the Recipient of the Amo Bessone Award, given annually to a Spartan for athletic, scholastic and community participation.
“I am very excited to make my initial visit to Northern Ireland, Belfast looks to be a great city and the Giants have a great following. I really can’t wait to be a part of the excitement. Coach Thornton has put together a great group of men and I think we can expect big things this year. I have played against and with some of the players on the team this year and know what they can bring to the ice. All in all it should be a great season in Belfast.” – Tyler Howells
Joining Howells on the blueline next season will be Mike Burgoyne, a Central League All-Star who has set the league on fire over the last two seasons in Oklahoma City. At 6’2″ and nearly 15 stone, he is an imposing figure on the blueline but it’s his offensive skill that has garnered the most attention around the league.
Burgoyne has led his team in scoring the past two seasons as a defenceman, scoring 21 goals and 40 assists in 64 league games, adding another 8 points in the playoffs during the 2006-07 season. Last year, he did it all over again scoring 55 points including 17 goals in 64 league games. He was selected into the starting line-up for the last two all-star games in the United Hockey League and last season he was voted the league’s best offensive defenceman in a league wide “Best of the Best” poll voted by players and coaches from opposing teams. He was also selected as his teams Most Valuable Player in both of the last 2 seasons.
“I am very happy to be joining the Belfast Giants family. There has been nothing but great things that I’ve been told about the city and the team. I am excited and nervous for my European hockey career to start, I haven’t felt this way since I signed my first pro contract! I can’t wait to be on big ice and learn to adapt to the European style of hockey, I think it will suit my game very well as I love to control the puck and use my skating to help the forwards create scoring chances. I look forward to meeting all the fans and my teammates and starting a winning season in Belfast.” – Mike Burgoyne
Steve Thornton was very excited about the signings and believes that his defensive unit will be a good mix of size and speed.
“I don’t know who I am more excited about, I guess I would have to say equally excited to have Tyler and Mike joining us next season. Howells is young and only a year out of Michigan State University, which is one of the best programs in the nation. He was the best defenceman on the best team in the country and he knows what it takes to win, something you just can’t teach. He isn’t the biggest guy, but he’s a competitor and his offensive numbers speak for themselves.”
“With Mike, I know I am getting one of the best offensive defenceman in the league. He scored 38 goals over the last two years as a defenceman, which is very impressive. Every coach I called about him to give me a reference on him told me to ‘get that guy out of our league, we cant stop him’ so what more can you say about him than that?”
“We play 30 games on a big ice surface and I want my defencemen to be mobile and to join the attack. Both Mike and Tyler come highly recommended and I know the fans are going to love the way they play in a Giants uniform. Two players that have both been voted best offensive defencemen in the last two seasons are definately going to improve our offensive output.”
“I have almost completed our roster, just waiting for a couple signed contracts back. In fact we only have one spot left if I get the signatures on the offers I put out this week. We should have more announcements early next week.”