The Nottingham Lions are delighted to announce the return of 17 year-old defenceman Sam Illsley, for his first full season of senior hockey.
The promising, Nottingham-born youngster is a product of the junior club's youth development system and was a major player in helping the Under 18's (Nottingham Leopards) to clinch the North Division 1 championship last season.
Sam has also been part of the Lions' squad for the previous two campaigns, making numerous appearances and producing two very eye-catching performances at the Lailder play off weekend, against Coventry and Solihull last April.
Speaking to nottinghamlions.co.uk this week, Illsley was clearly excited to be part of the Nottingham set-up for his first full season as a senior, saying:
"I'm looking forward to playing with some new and old teammates - there's definitely good chemistry in the team already and it should help us get through the longer season."
"Last season winning the league with the Under 18s was great, as was making the playoff final with the Lions - we showed great determination and character in both the playoff games and my own personal highlight would have to be scoring my first senior goal against Coventry." added Illsley.
He then continued: "This year I want to up my game and hopefully get a few more points in the bag, it's going to be a busy season, so the team needs to pull together and take one game at a time - the younger guys will also have a big role to play, so that will be a good test for them."
Illsley celebrates his play off semi final goal against Coventry Blaze.
Head coach Matt Bradbury was also pleased to have the young D-man back on board, especially now Sam is a fully fledged senior player and said:
"He's another product off the junior conveyor belt and now to have him all to ourselves this year is great news for the team, as he is a pleasure to work with."
The Lions have also been helpful when the youngster requested a break from senior hockey midway through last season, as Bradbury went on to say: "At one point he was unable to balance under 18s, the Lions and his studies and he came to see us and we put Lions training and games on the back burner for him - then he became available for the end of season play offs and it was a no-brainer to bring him in and he didn't disappoint, delivering two quality performances."
"What I like about Sam most is that he reads the game , anticipates the play, has a good shot and does the simple things right - not bad for someone who is only going into his first full season in senior hockey." added Bradbury.
You can catch Sam in action when Nottingham's season gets underway on Saturday 6th September, as the Lions travel to Lancashire for their NIHL Laidler D2 opener against Blackburn Eagles (5.45pm), whilst he will see his first home action on Sunday 14th September, as they host local rivals Sheffield Senators, at the National Ice Centre (7.30pm). Ticket details are available here.