FAYETTEVILLE, NC — Black Friday is typically the biggest shopping day of the year. Today, the Fayetteville Marksmen went out and got something no one else was looking for – a new head coach. In a press release today, the Marksmen announced the release of head coach Nick Mazzolini after a tenure of only eleven games.

Mazzolini had a 3-7-1 record as the Marksmen’s bench boss, including the 0-6-1 stretch which would eventually be his undoing. While his Marksmen averaged 3.36 goals per game, the team was last in the SPHL allowing 4.64 goals per game.

“The Marksmen are committed to making whatever decisions are necessary to best position ourselves for excellence both on and off the ice,” team Owner and CEO, Chuck Norris said. “While these types of changes are never taken lightly, we feel that a change was necessary to best position our hockey team for long-term success.”

Mazzolini’s tenure ended on a positive note last night in Roanoke. Chris Porter had two goals and an assist, while the Marksmen sniped four goals in the third period in a 6-3 win over the Rail Yard Dawgs.

“We want to thank Nick for his efforts in the challenging environment of getting a first-year organization off the ground and wish him and his family the best,” added Director of Hockey Operations, Ryan Cruthers.

Phil Esposito, no relation to Hockey Hall-of-Famers Phil and Tony Esposito, was a head coach for six seasons in the Federal Hockey League. Most of Esposito’s FHL coaching career was spent in Danbury with the Danbury Whalers and Danbury Titans. During his time in Danbury, Esposito led the franchise to a 161-106-29 record, which included four trips to the finals and an FHL Commissioner’s Cup Championship in 2013.

“He brings a winning resume to the Marksmen and a history of hard-hitting and hard-working teams that fits the culture of the town and of the organization.  We are looking forward to welcoming Phil to Fayetteville,” said Norris of his new head coach.

Prior to stepping behind the bench, Esposito enjoyed a successful professional career, spending most of his playing days in the ECHL, having suited up for six different teams. In total, he appeared in 66 ECHL contests, Mostly with the Mobile Mysticks, notching 11 goals and nine assists.

Esposito should bring more of a defensive emphasis to the Marksmen. His teams have finished in the top half of the FHL rankings in goals allowed.

“This is a tough situation to come in to, but it’s something I’ve done before and I’m excited about the challenge. We need to get in there and win some hockey games,” Esposito said of his new team.

Esposito becomes the third FHL coach to assume command of an SPHL team. Rob Miller coached for two years in the Fed with the New York/Brooklyn Aviators before coaching the Augusta Riverhawks’ final season. Also, Greg McCauley was an interim replacement for Emery Olauson in Fayetteville during the 2013-14 season.

Ryan Cruthers will serve as interim coach for the weekend’s remaining games in Fayetteville against Macon and Roanoke. Esposito is expected to join the Marksmen early next week.

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