EVANSVILLE, IN – The SPHL season is roughly half over and the body of work from the Evansville Thunderbolts is deep enough to assess what type of team they may have for the remainder of the season. The very nature of the SPHL is that all of this is subject to change with one or two call ups but assuming the team stays in tact, we know who the Thunderbolts are.
Starting the year 0-8-3 didn’t do Evansville any favors in the standings. Furthermore, after Thanksgiving weekend, the Thunderbolts were 3-10-3. By all accounts, things were not going well in Evansville. The team made move after move in an attempt to get the hockey team going in the right direction. The moves have been a success for Evansville. Since the 3-10-3 start, the team has played 6-6-1 hockey. During that same 13 game stretch, the team only scored more than three goals in a game three times. Only once was that number higher than four.
In yet another interesting statistic, the Thunderbolts have played their last 10 games against teams with winning records and have another 9 to go. That’s 19 straight games against teams with a winning record.
All of this tells us a lot about the Evansville Thunderbolts. All the statistics and numbers point to a .500 hockey team.
A comparison to Roanoke is fair as they are the other new expansion team in the SPHL for this season. They are a .400 hockey club and have been trending down for the better part of the last month or so. Evansville is playing as a .500 hockey team and trending up in that same time frame. It is worth mentioning Roanoke sat out a season in order to prepare their team. This time last year, Evansville was in hockey team limbo land.
The offense is being lead by Justin MacDonald, Dave Williams and Josh Harris. This team won’t be confused with a high powered juggernaut, but they create quality chances each game and take over control for stretches at a time. One area the offense can improve is creating the sense of urgency earlier and more often in games. Playing from behind isn’t a recipe for success and neither is resting on a one goal lead.
On the back end, as Tanner Milliron goes, Evansville goes. Backup goaltender Michael Doan has struggled as of late between the pipes and in most instances, Evansville needs to hold opponents to one or two goals. That falls squarely on Milliron. He has developed well and has been up to the task. If he gets injured for any reason or goes up (as he’s already done once this year) Evansville will find themselves with a big hole to fill.
The ability to create a .500 hockey team from absolutely nothing at this time last year truly is a testament to all the hard work of many people within the Thunderbolts organization. The City has yearned to be “average” on the hockey scene for a long time.
So what exactly are the Evansville Thunderbolts, as they are graded half way through their inaugural season? They are an A-. Evansville has a team committed to the community and an on ice product that can win on any given night. The work on and off the ice to the point is nothing short of impressive. The areas where the team has lacked (marketing, in game entertainment, etc) they continue to grow and learn.
How would you grade the Evansville Thunderbolts? Let me know in the comments section and on Twitter!