Video Credit: WEAR-TV Pensacola
One of the cardinal rules in relationships is to never break off the commitment right before Valentine’s day. Unfortunately for Kevin Hasselberg, the Pensacola Ice Flyers ended the relationship with their head coach on February 13th. Hasselberg’s SPHL coaching stint lasted 36 games, going 15-15-6 in his first season coaching pro hockey after a long and successful career coaching junior hockey in Saskatchewan.
In the Ice Flyers’ press release, owner Greg Harris said, “Kevin came in here, worked tirelessly and put everything into this team, and I truly appreciate that. Unfortunately, the results haven’t been what we want and need them to be. So with great respect to him and everyone a part of the organization, I had to make a change of leadership behind the bench.”
After a 5-9-5 start to the season, the Ice Flyers’ fortunes seemed to take a turn for the better. The team – 6-3-1 over their last ten games – was trending toward their seventh straight postseason appearance. Hasselberg’s dismissal comes after the high point in Pensacola’s season – a three-game weekend sweep of the Peoria Rivermen at the Pensacola Bay Center. In Harris’s post to fans on Facebook, the Ice Flyers’ owner commented, “This past weekend was great don’t get me wrong, and I am excited about winning all three games against our rival Peoria. However, it’s a tough business we’re in. I respect him greatly for all the time and effort he put into this team, and I can’t thank him enough for that. As should we all.”
The team will announce their new coach at a 9:00 am CT press conference. The Ice Flyers announced Hasselberg over the summer as the successor to two-time President’s Cup winner Rod Aldoff, who departed Pensacola to take over the ECHL Norfolk Admirals. Aldoff was let go by the Admirals 17 games into the season, going 2-11-4, and according to Bill Vilona of the Pensacola News Journal is still retained by the Edmonton Oilers – the Admirals’ parent team – as a scout.
Midseason coaching changes are hard to predict, but conventional wisdom says that Harris may elect to bring Aldoff back to lead the Ice Flyers for the playoff run. Aldoff is already familiar with the organization and – with two league titles in three seasons – has a proven record of success in the SPHL. Another possibility is Anthony Noreen, who was dismissed by the Orlando Solar Bears back in November. Noreen is a Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate. UWSP is a solid D3 program which sends several players to the SPHL each season.
Whether Harris brings back Aldoff, taps Noreen, or goes with an unexpected option, Hasselberg’s replacement will take over a team much improved from November. Matt Zenzola and John McLean remain solid goaltending options, Corey Banfield has regained his scoring touch with recent arrival Josh Harris, and budding stars in Riley Spraggs, Patrick Megannety, and Louis Belisle. We’ll find out tomorrow who takes (or re-takes) over the Ice Flyers’ roster.