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BLIZZARD SIGNS BUTCHER

The Buffalo Blizzard Friday announced the signings of four new players, including University at Buffalo star forward Steve Butcher, whom the team picked Tuesday in the National Professional Soccer League's annual amateur draft.

Butcher, 21, the Mid-American Conference's Player of the Year, lives near the Blizzard's Sportsplex practice facility in North Tonawanda and has been practicing with the team this week.

The North Tonawanda High grad, who has been playing indoor soccer at Sportsplex since he was 4, led the MAC in goals (14) and scoring (36 points) last year.

In three years of college, Butcher set UB career records with 48 goals, 19 assists and 115 points.

The Blizzard also signed veteran midfielder-defender Mike Britton, a rookie with the original Blizzard team in 1992-93. He spent the past summer-fall season with the Houston Hotshots of the World Indoor Soccer League.

The club also announced developmental-player contracts with rookies Matt Albrecht, 23, a midfielder-defender from City Honors and Fredonia State, and Tony Mermigas, 22, a defender from Kenmore West and Canisius College.

Britton has been practicing with the club for about a month. Albrecht and Mermigas have been working out with the team since training camp in October.

The newcomers are the latest signees in a shake-up that saw coach George Fernandez cut veteran forward Rudy Pikuzinski and second-year midfielder Miroslav Obrenovic on Monday. Earlier, the Blizzard released rookie forward Jacki Surojon.

Buffalo (4-8) is off to its slowest start in the franchise's eight seasons. The Blizzard hosts the Wichita Wings (7-6) at Marine Midland Arena Sunday at 7 p.m.

Britton, 29, is a Rochester native and Syracuse University graduate who played 110 games for the Blizzard in the franchise's first four seasons. He scored 27 goals and 25 assists worth 84 points with Buffalo from 1992 to 1996.

On Feb. 16, 1995 against the Cleveland Crunch, Britton became the first of five Blizzard players to score two three-point goals in one game.

Britton was left unprotected in the 1996 expansion draft and was picked up by the now-defunct Tampa Bay Terror. In recent years, he has played outdoors with the A-League's Rochester Rhinos and indoors with Houston.

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