Oilers Sign Young Forwards and Veteran Goaltender
TULSA, OK - With just over two months until the beginning of training camp, the Tulsa Oilers strengthened their roster on Thursday by announcing the return of forward Steve Mele along with the additions of rookie forward Marc-Olivier Phaneuf and goaltender Mike Zacharias.
Mele (MEAL-ee), a 25-year old center who hails from Bronx, New York, finished the 2013-14 regular season with the Oilers after spending time with the Columbus Cottonmouths (SPHL), South Carolina Stingrays (ECHL), and Utah Grizzlies (ECHL). Mele scored one goal in five games as an Oiler and was released before Tulsa began its postseason run.
"At the end of last season I knew it was a numbers game and I had absolutely no hard feelings," Mele commented. "I loved my time in Tulsa and I'm very grateful for the opportunity to come back and prove myself."
A product of American International College, Mele, 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, made his professional debut in the spring of 2013 with the Greenville Road Warriors (ECHL). In 40 games as a pro, Mele has recorded 13 goals, 17 assists, and a +9 rating.
"Steve's biggest asset is his ability to consistently win face-offs," said Oilers Head Coach, Bruce Ramsay. "Puck possession is so important in this game and Steve is extremely dependable in the circle. I liked what I saw out of him last season in terms of his work ethic and his attitude so I didn't think twice about bringing him back."
After three straight seasons in the QJAHL (Quebec AAA Junior Hockey League), the 20-year old Phaneuf (FUH-noof) is set to make his professional debut in Tulsa. A member of Longueuil College-Francais for three years, Phaneuf is coming off his best season of hockey. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound left-winger appeared in 51 games during the 2013-14 campaign and registered 72 points while leading his squad in goals (33), assists (39), and penalty minutes (64).
"When I talked to Coach Ramsay, I knew that Tulsa would be a good environment for me to continue to develop as a player," Phaneuf remarked. "I always work extremely hard and try to prepare very well for every single game so even though I expect a very high level of competition in the CHL, I am looking forward to the challenge and I'm very happy to start my career in Tulsa."
"He is a big, powerful forward who I think can be very effective for us on the forecheck and provide a lot of energy for our team," Ramsay said. "Even though he is a young player, I see a tremendous amount of potential in Marc-Olivier and I think he'll definitely come to training camp as a hungry player who can show huge improvement in a short period of time."
Zacharias (ZACK-uh-ri-us), the first netminder to sign with the Oilers for the upcoming season, is entering his sixth season as a pro. The Plymouth, Minnesota native returns to North American soil after spending two seasons in France and one season in England with the Coventry Blaze. In the 2013-14 campaign, Zacharias was between the pipes in 60 games for Coventry and posted a 3.12 goals against average with a .912 save percentage. Zacharias, 29, played four years of college hockey at Minnesota State University-Mankato before turning pro in 2010. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound puck-stopper spent his first two pro seasons in the ECHL as a member of the Ontario Reign, Idaho Steelheads, and Florida Everblades.
"I know some of the guys that have played in Tulsa and I've heard nothing but great things about the organization, the arena, and the fans," said Zacharias. "Going into every season you want to be the number one guy in net and I'm excited about competing for that job and doing what I can to help this team win. It might be kind of weird playing on regulation ice again after being in Europe but other than that, I think it will be a smooth transition for me."
"Goaltender is the most important position on the ice and I believe Mike can be a workhorse for us in net this season," Ramsay stated. "Obviously, you look at his numbers last season, you see a guy who is reliable, who can be counted on every night, and a guy who does a great job of taking care of his body and preparing to play. I've heard so many good things about Mike from so many people and I know he'll play a big role in our success."
Oilers training camp opens on October 13 and the team will play its only preseason game on October 18 against the Wichita Thunder.
To learn more about the Oilers new premium season ticket packages, call 918-632-7825 or log on to www.tulsaoilers.com.
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