Breaking the Ice With Stuart-Dant and Newberg
By Angelo Velotta
PHOTOS: Barry Booher
This is the 13th Breaking The Ice feature, a series created for the FINatics to learn a little more about the players who take to the ice in double blue representing Mentor, Ohio. Today, we caught up with veteran forwards Thomas Stuart-Dant and Josh Newberg.
Stuart-Dant, a Winnipeg native, has logged a 3-8-11 scoring line for the Ice Breakers so far. Before landing in Mentor back in August, he played for teams in multiple countries including Iceland, Germany, Scotland and Canada. The 28-year-old began his professional career during the 2011-2012 season in the FPHL with the Danbury Whalers and Cape Cod Bluefins. The left-handed forward stands in at 6-foot while weighing 187 pounds. Stuart-Dant captains the Ice Breakers and was recently named a player-assistant coach and will be working closely with interim head coach Sebastian Ragno.
Newberg, a Westfield, New Jersey native, has a 3-1-4 scoring line in only eight games with the Ice Breakers. The 5-foot-10, 196-pound right-handed forward has been in the FPHL since the 2017-2018 season, when he started playing with the North Shore Knights and turned in 27 points over 37 games. From there, Newberg played with the Watertown Wolves last year, scoring 14 points across the playoff-bound Wolves' season before a six-game stint with the Danbury Hat Tricks to open this season. Earlier in his career, Newberg played 12 games with the Elmira Jackals (ECHL) after suiting up for several junior teams in the New Jersey area.
Q: Thomas, you were recently named captain of the Ice Breakers. With your amount of experience, what are your goals for on- and off-ice leadership here in Mentor?
Thomas Stuart-Dant: Being named captain of the Ice Breakers is a HUGE honor! Nothing has really changed for me personally though -- my goals are still the same. I want to contribute wherever and whenever I can so that we can not only make playoffs but achieve our goal of winning it all. With a lot of new faces, I’m going to have to lead by example in a positive way more so then I was before.
Q: Josh, you bring a veteran presence to a very young Ice Breakers team. How do you use your experience to help all of the newcomers and youth for Mentor?
Josh Newberg: We have a young, energetic team in Mentor and I’m glad to be accepted as a part of it. It’s been great to see some of the guys gain some experience and adapt to changes. I try to help any way I can with getting guys more accommodated to the league and what it takes to win. Even with all the recent setbacks, I think we have an idea of what’s ahead of us.
Q: Thomas, you've played in several different countries along with the United States, most recently in Iceland and Germany before coming to Mentor. What are the differences you've experienced on-ice in those countries compared to the USA?
TS-D: I would say the biggest difference between hockey in Europe and here in North America would be the size of the ice. In Europe, you have a bigger ice surface to play on (15 feet wider), which gives you more time and space to make plays. However, playing in North America on the smaller ice means the game becomes more physical, which I have no problem with either.
Q: You've had experience now playing for the four FPHL teams, how much does it help you in your current role having seen how different teams run, including the Commissioner's Cup champion Watertown Wolves in 2018?
JN: It takes a lot of preparation ending the season and getting ready for the playoffs. I’ve seen quite a few teams go through it. One thing I can say about our team right now is it will be a long tough road but we have the work ethic to do it. I think with the right guidance, staying positive and things clicking at the right times we can put together some wins and create some upsets.
Q: Thomas, throughout your career six teams you have played on have made it to the playoffs. What is going to take for the Ice Breakers to clinch a spot in this year's FPHL playoffs?
TS-D: Teams that make playoffs pay very close attention to the little details. A team that can have all the skill in the world can suffer if they don’t do that. I feel here at Mentor we have the skill and we have speed, but we can never stop working and improving on the little things. That’s the difference between successful teams and regular teams.
Q: Josh, two weekends ago you finished off Friday night's home game by scoring twice in under two minutes of play which really fired up your teammates. How exciting was that to be the spark for the Ice Breakers going forward?
JN: Yeah, it was great to see the boys gain some momentum and start rolling at the end of the game against Port Huron. It was exciting to be a part of that. I think it gave us all hope that we can control the pace of games when we’re playing together as a unit. The challenge moving forward is we have to put a full 60 minutes of hockey together and not take until the third period to get going.
Q: Thomas, through all of your travels what are some of your favorite foods/beverages you have gotten to try along the way?
TS-D: I can honestly say nothing beats a nice home-cooked meal. I’ve tried rattle snake, crocodile, fermented shark... lots of weird foods. Some were good and some were not! But having a nice wholesome meal is the best. I don’t mind a beer or nice whiskey either, but water for sure -- everyone loves water right?
Q: Josh, what is your favorite place to eat at in Mentor?
JN: I’m a big Chipotle guy.
Q: What is your pregame routine?
TS-D: Game days for me start the night before. I usually have the same pasta dinner and as much water as I can. A good night sleep is key as well. Next morning, I get up for breakfast and might stretch or do something active at home just to get my muscles loose and my blood flowing if we don’t have a pregame skate. After that, I’ll eat lunch which is usually more pasta and then I won’t eat again until about 3 p.m. before a quick nap if our game is at 7:30. Earlier games change my routine up. After my nap I’ll hit the cold tub. Cold water is great for activating the muscles and promotes blood circulation.
After that, I change and head to the rink. First thing I do is tape my sticks after changing into my warm-up clothes. Then, I’ll go stretch again and listen to my music just to focus. Once I’m on the ice it’s the same thing every game which I’m sure the fans may have noticed. After on-ice warms ups, I’ll head to the room, listen to some music again and I’ll have a pre-workout drink. I’m not very superstitious -- everything is about preparing to play my best.
JN: On game days, I always try to get a light workout in the morning then a good full meal. Laying around all day can make you feel lazy so I always try to stay active and stretch as much as I can. Reading a couple chapters of a book also helps me keep the mind active and better focused when it gets close to game time.
We thank both players for their time and wish them best of luck on the rest of their seasons here in Mentor!