BLACKBURN Hawks coach Jared Owen insists “improvement” is the aim this season – despite suffering something of a summer squad exodus.

A number of last season’s players have departed for National League outfit Deeside Dragons, where former Hawk Ric Hughes has been appointed assistant coach, while Finish export Sami Narkia has returned home after his year studying in the North West.

Ahead of tomorrow’s National League North Division One opener at home to Sheffield, Hawks are still working hard to strengthen their roster but believe they have quality to repeat last season’s form.

Hawks made last season’s play-offs but ultimately lost the two-legged final to league champions Billingham Stars.

Owen said: “We had our best season for a long time last season and we want much of the same this time around. We are looking to progress and hopefully go a step forward again.

“We have lost a few players and brought in some good replacements and so we are hoping we will do well again. That is the aim.

“It is going to be a tough league this season, tougher than it has been.

“A few players have dropped down from higher leagues and on paper that makes the league look higher quality. It is difficult to tell what level it will be until we get going obviously but I believe it will be very strong.

“I think we can compete again this season. The key strength last season was our defence and net minder and we have only lost one from these positions. We are fairly confident we can start from a solid base.

“The play offs are the minimum we aim for each season. Ever since we took over we have looked for top four as a minimum goal.”

Great Britain junior Myles Dacres has joined from Bradford Bulldogs under 18s, as Hawks saw off fierce competition from several rivals.

Owen said: “Myles has been on our radar for a while now; we spotted his talent at an Under 18s tournament, he is a very talented hockey player, who is big, strong and can finish in front of goal.

“He scored 38 goals in 10 games last year in under 18s and also contributed 17 goals in the ENL.

“He was selected to represent Great Britain under 18s last season and this shows his calibre and we are delighted that he has chosen the Hawks to continue his development as we know a number of teams were interested in signing him.

“We are looking for him to develop into an impact player in this league, much in the same way Jordan Bannon did last year, we know he has the talent and desire and we think this is a great environment for him to become a better player and further his on ice career.”