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Recruit helps to steady the Vipers; ICE HOCKEY.

NEWCASTLE Vipers face a tough battle tonight at title challengers Belfast Giants, but the instant impact made by new netminder Kevin Reiter gives them cause for optimism, writes JAMIE DURENT. The Pittsburgh native was signed on a month's contract following Canadian Michel Robinson's broken finger, having been released by Sheffield Steelers.

Last Saturday Reiter marked his debut with a man-of-thematch performance in a win over tonight's opponents, and coach Rob Wilson has been more than impressed with his new acquisition.

"It was a bit daunting when Robinson went down injured but Kevin's come in and done a great job," he said. "For him to come in having not been on the ice that much recently and do as well as he did was impressive."

Reiter's heroics helped Newcastle to their second Elite League victory of the season over the Giants. They earned a creditable 2-2 Challenge Cup draw in their previous visit to the Odyssey Arena this season.

The Vipers have been inconsistent of late, winning only three out of their last eight games. However, since Reiter's debut, the defence has looked far tighter.

In the three games before the University of Alaska graduate was signed, Newcastle had shipped 19 goals in two losses to Coventry and a hammering at Cardiff.

Wilson was not surprised at how quickly Reiter had settled in to his new surroundings.

"Practice will help him a lot to get used to his D unit," he explained. "But because hockey's quick and very systematic he will pick things up very quickly." The Giants' recent form suggests the former Steeler will be kept busy all night.

Belfast demolished the Edinburgh Capitals 8-2 last Friday, with their own new signing, Canadian forward Jeffrey Szwez bagging a hat-trick. Former Viper Colin Shields is their leading points-scorer this season, with 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 23 games. The Glasgow-born forward bagged 73 points in the 2007-08 season, before swapping Newcastle black-and-white for Belfast green.

The Vipers are back in action at Whitley Bay Ice Rink tomorrow night, against the Nottingham Panthers. Face-off is at 6.30pm.

CAPTION(S):

BUSY NIGHT Rob Wilson.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 11, 2009
Words:354
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