FAYETTEVILLE, NC – Fayetteville FireAntz fans might not have recognized the hockey team playing on the ice with Fayetteville FireAntz jerseys on as they skated to a 4-1 win over the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs last night at the Crown Coliseum. Anybody would understand why as FireAntz coach Jeff Bes made multiple roster moves this past week in an effort to jump start his team after starting the season 4-7. While the new players seemed to bring energy to the team, it was the familiar faces that found their offense and led the FireAntz to their fourth win of the season.
Bes wasted no time familiarizing the FireAntz fans to some of the new players as center Jake Hauswirth, defenseman Mark Corbett, and goalie Andrew Hare all got the start. It was a familiar face in forward Chris Porter, however, that got the scoring started with just over a minute left in the opening period when he found himself on a breakaway and deftly slid the puck between the pads of Roanoke goalie Ryan de Melo to put the FireAntz up 1-0. Porter wasn’t done and found the back of the net again at the 1:48 mark of the second period on a broken play. Porter slapped the puck towards the net but it ricocheted off a Roanoke defender right back to Porter who quickly slapped the puck right back at the Roanoke net and past goalie de Melo. The goal was Porter’s fifth goal of the season and second of the game.
Roanoke started to up the pressure in the middle period but new FireAntz goalie Andrew Hare held strong, making several good saves on close range shots. Hare showed poise and calmness in the crease, seemingly not phased by anything the Rail Yard Dawgs threw his way. The Dawgs finally were able to solve the FireAntz netminder when forward Michael Turner gathered a rebound off teammate Dmytro Babenko‘s shot and poked it through the five hole of FireAntz goalie Hare. This came at the 14:06 mark of the second period and put the Rail Yard Dawgs in great position heading into the final period to tally an equalizer and erase the two goal deficit the FireAntz had built.
Another familiar face, defenseman Graeme Strukoff, made sure Roanoke didn’t have a chance to tie the game as he blasted a shot from just inside the blue line through traffic and into the back of the net just 36 seconds into the third period. The goal, Strokoff’s third of the season, gave the FireAntz some breathing room and allowed them to play a more dump and chase style game while protecting the two goal lead. Strukoff wasn’t done, however, as he finished off a beautiful no look pass from center Taylor Thompson to make the game 4-1 at the 15:36 mark of the final period.
While both Porter and Strukoff scored two goals a piece for the FireAntz on home ice, newcomer goalie Andrew Hare made 26 saves on 27 shots picking up his first win of the season in his first game played for Fayetteville.
The result on the ice was a much needed win for the FireAntz but it was what happened leading up to the game that had many FireAntz fans and players alike heads spinning. After a 4-0 shutout win over the Evansville Thunderbolts last Sunday, coach Bes started a week that saw five total players traded away, three total players acquired via trade, and three total players waived while two more new players were signed. Traded away were Joseph Manno, Stephon Thorne, Vytal Cote, Josh Elmes, and Adam Stuart. Although Stuart never played a game for the FireAntz, he was acquired from Knoxville for Manno and then immediately traded away to Peoria for Hauswirth and Corbett. Also acquired via trade was defenseman Steven Hoshaw, a familiar name to FireAntz fans as he played all of last season for Fayetteville. In addition to the trades, Bes waived backup goalie James Kruger and forwards Colin McIntosh and Daniel Vernace while signing veteran forward Bobby Chaumont and goalie Andrew Hare. When it was all said and done, the FireAntz certainly did some introducing themselves to each other and to the fans at the Crown Coliseum Saturday night.
Regardless of how familiar or unfamiliar the team looked, the product on the ice reflected a much improved offensive team that also dedicated itself to blocking shots and clearing rebounds. While it’s only one win with the new look line-up, Bes and the FireAntz faithful hope to become even more familiar with this new look team and putting more points on the board. The win brings the FireAntz record to 5-7 on the season. They have a couple of tough upcoming games next weekend when they face a home and home against a first place Macon team that has beaten them twice already this season. The FireAntz find themselves with 10 points in the standings through 12 games.
Sin Bin FireAntz Three Stars
1st Star: G Andrew Hare (26 saves on 27 shots)
2nd Star: F Chris Porter (2 goals)
3rd star: D Graeme Strukoff (2 goals)