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WPHL Central Division Preview

By Kevin Garner

Abiline Aviators Losing Tony Martino is going to hurt the Aviators more than they realize. Martino is a leader on and off the ice and was a key factor in their early season success last season. Patrick Mazzoli's arrival from Europe will give the Aviators some experience in net, but they still have to replace Martino's leadership. Predicted Finish in Central: 4th

Austin Ice Bats Signing star goalie Rob Laurie doesn't do much for the Ice Bats' chances of success this season. Jeff Greenlaw and Ryan Anderson provide some toughness, but Andy Ross needs to rebound from a disappointing last season. The Bats' biggest need is a high-scoring winger Predicted Finish in Central: 6th

Central Texas Stampede THE team to beat in the Central. The Stampede have made all the right moves over the off season, brining in toughness and scoring punch. However, new Head Coach Todd Lalonde must keep the team focused on and off the ice. The return of Jacques Mailhot could potentially hurt the team more than help it. Mailhot must change his ways to fit Lalonde's style as well as work with player/assistant coach Jamie Hearn. If Lalonde doesn't keep the team straight on and off the ice, the Stampede will crash and burn. Predicted Finish in Central: 1st

Corpus Christi Ice Rays The Ice Rays must learn to turn regular season success into playoff success. Coach Taylor Hall has to prove to his critics that he can indeed guide a team on a deep playoff run. The Rays will miss the veteran leadership of Craig Coxe, but the return of goalie Jason Genik, forwards Geoff Bumstead, and Chris Robertson still make the Rays a contender. Predicted Finish in Central: 3rd

Fort Worth Brahmas Replacing goalie Steve Plouffe will be a major obstacle to success. However, the addition of Ross Harris to the roster could give the Brahmas the potential to be the Dark Horse of the Central. Opponents will not want to see Harris on a line with Cosmo Dupaul and Stephane Larocque. Murray Hogg is the only returning defenseman as the Brahmas lack depth on the blue line. Predicted Finish in Central: 4th

Waco Wizards New owners, new coach, and new faces could spell even greater success for the Wizards. Kevin Abrams steps in to take over behind the bench after Todd Lalonde's departure. Abrams did much of Lalonde's scouting and recruiting last season. The Wizards return the core of their offense in Tony Cimellaro, Eric Preston, and Dave MacIntyre. Rookie of the year Kory Cooper returns for a 2nd season in net for the Wizards. The loss of Randy Holmes was more than replaced by the signing of Mike Taylor from the WCHL Predicted Finish in Central: 2nd