KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – This week, the Knoxville Ice Bears announced the return of two key players from last years team; goalie Hayden Stewart and forward Stefan Brucato. Both players were vital in the Ice Bears success and will be integral parts of what looks to be a successful year.

In his first year of professional hockey, Stewart, 24, lead the Ice Bears between the pipes for a substantial amount of the year. While Stewart did take a few call ups to the ECHL and suffer from some injuries, he was still able to average a solid .913 save percentage and 2.73 goals against average in 19 regular season games.

In the playoffs, Stewart was able to take his play to another level, playing in all four games, sporting an impressive .941 save percentage. Ice Bears coach Jeff Carr said this of Stewart:

“His calm demeanor, his experience, and his .941 save percentage in the playoffs last year are why I brought him back. Hayden is a core leader within our organization and we expect to see great things from him again this season.”

Brucato, 27, will be entering his third season with the Ice Bears. In his first with the Ice Bears, Brucato played in 42 games and had 30 points (13G, 17A). Last season, he emerged as a leader on the ice and a player that could be moved throughout the lineup. Playing in all but two regular-season games and racking up 31 points (9G, 22A,) Carr had this to say about Brucato’s play:

“He could seriously play any position on any line for us and we’re expecting an impressive year from him.”

Both players are set to have successful years. Stewart will look to be the top goaltender in the SPHL, while Brucato will continue to affect the game through his hustle and nose for success.

With more returning players on the way, the Ice Bears look to be one of the dominant teams in the SPHL this year.

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