Rising Australian hockey star Corey Stringer is returning to where it all began - the Adelaide IceArenA.
Stringer, a 20-year-old who spent 2015-2017 with the Melbourne Mustangs, has committed to the 2018 season with the Adelaide Adrenaline. He joins a promising young defensive core that includes the likes of Zach Boyle (21) and Jordan Geyer (20).
For Stringer, it's a chance to prove he can be a top local defenseman in the AIHL in the rink he was introduced to hockey.
"I always feel comfortable playing [at the IceArenA]," he says. "Some of my best tournaments have been here but it's also where I learned to skate."
Stringer and his brother Matt, who plays for the Mustangs, lived in Adelaide until 2006.
"I actually learned to skate with most of the younger players on the team. Zach Boyle assisted on my first ever goal," he says.
The signing is intended to bolster Adelaide's defensive stocks. Last year the Adrenaline allowed a league worst 39 shots per game.
President Eric Balnar says the club are looking towards an exciting group of younger players to help bring them back up the standings.
"We're really excited about the season," Balnar says. "It will be a bit of a different line up but one that is young, hungry and will work hard. Corey has a chance to come to Adelaide, join a group of emerging young players and develop not just as a player but as a person."
Stringer says the youth of the Adrenaline is something that attracted him to the club.
"The team's dedication to the development of junior players was an important factor in my decision. I really respect their commitment to the future of the AIHL and giving junior players the opportunities that they need to grow," he says.
Stringer is not the only player under the age of 22 looking to cement his place in the AIHL. South Australia has a stock of young talent who are looking for an opportunity to play. Last year Zach Boyle (21), Ryan Foll (21), Jordan Geyer (20), Remy McGuiness (20), Marcel McGuiness (18), Jake Riley (17), all had increased opportunities. This year they will factor more heavily in the line up.
"The future of the club really is in the hands of our young leaders," says Balnar. "It's really exciting. These guys live and breathe hockey and I know they want to represent Adelaide the best they can. We need to make sure we support them and are fans stay positive and keep encouraging them to be the best they can be."
Other prospects in South Australia include an impressive roster on the Adelaide Generals - South Australia's team in the Australian Junior Ice Hockey League. The Generals are defending national champions and are first place in the ongoing season.
Jeremy Friedrich, a 15 year old goalie, has been practicing with the team and 18 year old Seb Woodlands was recently a goalie for Team Australia at the World Under 20 Ice Hockey Championships. Teenagers Nathaniel Benson (17), Dylan Pope (20), Andrew Chen (17), Glen Forbes White (20) and Brad Chenoweth (15) each had their first shifts in the AIHL last year too.
Stringer has played 46 games in the AIHL, all for the Mustangs, with a goal and nine assists. He has international experience too. Stringer represented Australia on two occasions at the World Under 18 Ice Hockey Championship and once at the World Under 20s.
Corey says his best tournaments have been on the small ice surface of the IceArenA. He had seven points in seven games for Victoria at the 2016 Open Mens National Tournament (The Browns Tournament) in Adelaide. Victoria won the gold medal in a thrilling final vs. a South Australian side featuring many Adrenaline players.
While he has not even played enough games to count for two full AIHL seasons, he says he's learned a lot.
"I've learned you always have to be mentally prepared for every game. No team can be taken lightly. Everyone can be beaten. It's all about mindset and wanting to win more," he says.
The towering defenseman, who stands 193cm tall, is a versatile player. He players defense in the AIHL but in lower leagues tends to play forward more often. When he can, he likes to be aggressive on the rush.
Now it's about buckling in, joining a young team trying to find their way in the AIHL, and learning to pick his spots.
"It's exciting to be part of a team like this. I get to play with many of the top young players in the country. I expect us to be hard working, high paced and a team that is able to take advantage of our youthful core."
RAPID FIRE - GET TO KNOW COREY STRINGER
Favourite NHL Team: Colorado Avalanche Favourite NHL Player: Nathan MacKinnon Hockey highlight so far: Browns 2016 How were you introduced to hockey: The Mighty Ducks Favourite sport outside of hockey: Toe Wrestling Last song you played on your iPod: Old Man Emu - John Williamson Career aspirations: Police Officer Favourite food: KFC Wicked Wings